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Parenting - Encouraging Study With Pat Rees

Tuesday, 17 April 2007


With the end of year exams approaching our parenting expert Pat Rees is here to offer advice on how to encourage your child to study.

The Leaving and Junior Certificate written examinations will start on Wednesday 6th of June this year. If your son or daughter is doing their Junior or Leaving Cert this year, then it's time to get the head down and start doing some serious work.

Pats Advice
Unfortunately, the sun has always shone when it's time to study. Life is tough! Sit your child down and explain to them that this is their future, their contract. It is the key to their future. Pat feels that the Leaving Certificate is the important exam. How well you do in the Junior Certificate exam will be forgotten about in the future, however, it should be seen as a dress rehearsal for the real thing. It counts.

So how can we encourage studying?
You can bring a horse to water but you can't make them drink it. Encouragement needs to start from a young age. No matter how big or small your home is, you should have a dedicated study area set up for your child. It should be well lit and away from noise. Sit them down at the study area every day from a young age whether it is to do their homework or other.

Praise and encourage them, highlighting not only their successes but also their efforts and dedication. Build the study time into their routine. This begins with a good start in the morning; with plenty of time for breakfast and getting ready for and going to bed at a good time ensuring a good nights sleep.

How do we know they are doing any work?
Sometimes children don't know how to study or where to start.  Sit down with them and talk about what needs to be done, what subjects need to be covered and how much time should be allocated to each subject. Once you know their plan, you can sit your child down each evening and ask them to study (on top of homework). You can monitor what they are doing as you know what they should be doing.

What if they say they can't find the time?
Take a hard look at your teen's overall time commitments. Do the hours devoted to a part-time job, extracurricular activities, socializing or household chores crowd out prime study time? You may need to help your teen refocus on priorities.

Won't nagging just make my child less keen to study?
Do not choose to leave the desire to studying up to your child. All children need gentle encouragement. It's time consuming and no parent wants to be a negative influence on a child's ability to cope. But remember that same child may turn around to you in ten years time and say 'Why didn't you make me study?????'

What if you feel your child isn't ready?
Some students are not yet mature enough for the process, they may be emotionally too young for the experience and generally too immature for the exam year. You know your child, talk to them.

How do I differentiate between getting the best out of my child and them doing too much?
Striking the balance is a tough one for everyone concerned. We want to know whether our children are studying effectively, or just putting in time. Should the CD player really be blasting in the off-limits bedroom? And do breaks to watch 'Eastenders' actually assist in relaxation? Are all those mobile phone calls so urgent? If you, the parents, are confused about what's going on, just imagine how your child feels, since these distracting behaviours are likely to be unintentional.

On the other end, to identify if your child is doing too much, look out for signs of stress. A little bit of stress is useful for us; it can help motivate us to do important tasks and push us to achieve that little bit more. However, excessive stress is damaging. Excessive stress happens when we are so overwhelmed by worry that we are unable to do anything effectively.
Signs of excessive stress, whether caused by exams or other problems, include:

. Irritability
. Lack of sleep
. Lack of appetite
. Loss of interest
. Excessive worry
. Depression or negative thinking
. Physical problems such as headaches and stomach pains

If your child is showing signs of doing too much, you need to address this. If you think your teen is overdoing it, step in. School success is important, but not more so than your teen's health and well-being. Too many nights of studying into the wee hours may signal an overly ambitious academic schedule, a perfectionist attitude or both.

So what's a healthy way to study?
There is no point doing too much. If your child is spending four hours a night studying, it's probably too much. You retain about 50% of what you study in the first hour and this drops to about 10 to 15% in the third hour. It's about having short bursts and snacks in between. Have a study plan and stay in the study area of choice.

To Recap
. Have a dedicated study area for your child.
. Sit down with them and work out a study plan.
. Monitor this plan.
. Give gentle encouragement.
. Listen to your child's needs.
. Look for signs of overdoing it.

At the end of the day, you need to realise that there are students who study, those who don't, those who can't and those who won't.

For More Information
PRACTICAL PARENTING - An Irish Survival Guide by Pat Rees is available in book stores nationwide priced at €13.00

PRACTICAL PARENTING - An Irish Survival Guide by Pat Rees is available in book stores nationwide priced at €13.00