Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tired and exhausted children

SUNWAY University's Psychology Department lecturer and developmental psychologist Woo Pei Jun says children are at risk of social, emotional and mental problems if faced with excessive homework.
"Too much homework reduces a child's time for other leisure activities, such as play time and interaction with other children and family members. These activities offer many important life skills, such as social and problem solving skills, and opportunities to build friendships with others.

"Children whose schedules are filled with academic work may feel emotionally frustrated.

"They're in danger of being depressed, especially if they can't complete their homework and are afraid of being punished by teachers or parents. 
"It may also affect child-parent relationships because of excessive tension. Ultimately, some children may associate school with a negative experience, which then impacts their learning capabilities as well as life skills. 

"Mentally, children may be tired and exhausted, partly because they don't have adequate rest. This in turns affects their concentration in school, which then impacts their learning.

"Some studies have found that there are no beneficial effects of homework when it's given for more than two hours a day, for senior students. Homework should be kept to a minimum for younger children and increased for older children."

However, Woo also sees the good in homework.

"It gives parents an opportunity to get involved in their children's academic work; research does show that positive parental involvement in children's education is associated with higher level of school achievement."

Positive parental involvement could be using praise and rewards in response to effort put in by children, modelling and demonstrating problem solving skills, providing help and guidance with homework and breaking tasks into more manageable steps for the child. 

"Interactive learning, where parents and children positively complete homework together can make it more meaningful for children and their families. However, when excessive homework is given and parents use different teaching methods from school, then homework can cause conflict and stress for children and parents. 

"Generally, research shows that moderate time spent on homework is associated with better academic achievement, however, this is only applicable to older children. But, it's only beneficial up to a certain point, in which too much time spent can cause detrimental effects," Woo believes.

Parents, she says, should look out for signs of stress in their children.

"Lack of motivation to go to school, younger children may express this in ways of sickness such as headaches and stomach aches, persistent sadness or anxiousness. Lack of energy and fatigue, irritability and restlessness should ring warning bells."

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