We all start the school year with great intentions but by Halloween many such plans have either fallen apart or have not even started at all.
Check has a routine been set in place or is there still a mad rush to finish homework last thing on a Sunday night, or just as bedtime arrives on weeknights? How about the plans you discussed for homework first and television afterwards? How about television overall – is everyone watching too much? And everyone really includes parents as well, this time maybe adding in work–related laptops, blackberries, mobiles and emails at home.
It is so much easier and fairer to lead by example. So Halloween might be a good time to have an open family discussion on how you can all manage personal television and internet viewing better, and then moving to balancing homework and television, family and communication, better.
With many older students, television has been replaced with their imprisonment on social network sites, watching TV/DVDs online, YouTube, music sites, mobile texting, and the x-box can be added in, particularly for teenage boys. Add to this an excess of sports on television, right throughout the week, and throughout most weekends, and overload suddenly becomes a reality.
Individually all these can be good, but, in the life of a student and family, all need to be experienced in moderation, with supervision, and agreed and negotiated time-limits and restrictions. But, sadly, the reality is in many homes, and in many students’ lives, such activities have become addictive and anti-social, thereby causing extreme conflict within family members. And many times all this happens, initially unnoticed, and most definitely unplanned.
Homework/Study is important
Meaningful homework is the bedrock on which a child’s school progression is built and shared. Again, revisit earlier plans and agree to start again when school re-commences next week.
With older students, particularly students who may be sitting their Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations next year, should home temptations and distractions be seriously impacting on homework and eventual study, then maybe discuss the possibility of a student moving to supervised study, either within his/her own school or maybe in a nearby privately provided supervised homework/study facility.
Such a decision has saved many students, both from themselves, and from later months of panic when it is realised the amount of earlier homework and study not done. And, with all students, both at primary and second-level, try to get an early weekend start on homework, thereby allowing some additional time for beginning the habit of precious weekend study and revision from early on in the school year. All habits, if restarted even now, will save many tears and much regrets later on.
Everyone agrees that sport is good for most students, while equally respecting the right of the student who may choose other interests. Sport itself is not the problem, but over-involvement in sport can become a serious problem. This is where you have a young person interested and involved in many and sometimes diverse sports – with all demanding more and more training, involvement and commitment.
In the early years of school life students may experiment and share many sports, but as the years go by, and particularly once they enter exam years at second level, students will need to make decisions on their level of commitment and the range of sports with which they remain competitively involved.
This choice can be difficult for a student who may be talented in many sports and who may be under pressure from several sports managers and sectors. In time, particularly at Leaving Certificate level, students are best advised to limit themselves to one serious competitive sport, and in lesser form, to maybe one other. Sometimes, a student may need the active support and negotiation skills of a strong parent in dealing with such choices, for left alone, a young student just may be placed under too much pressure.
Students are always being reminded to remain fit and active. And that is good. But, as with all other activities, caution and balance will be equally required in relation to fitness – in particular to gym fitness. So, while encouraging such activity, be careful that it does not replace too much of a student’s personal and school life.
A long family walk, be it on a beach or favourite country walk, may sometimes be confined to the annual summer and Christmas holidays, so again, Halloween might be a good time to maybe think about having a monthly family hike or walk - again, new beginnings for all.
It is equally documented that physical activity, walking in particular, is one great way for destressing the body. ‘Walking the toxins of stress away’, particularly in the company of a friend, is great advice for all family members, be they students, particularly exam-year students, or simply adults struggling to balance their own family/work/personal lives.
We, parents, are told that our children are the letters that we have written on our hearts. So, while we sometimes focus on the responsibility of parents in regard to the guiding of their children through school, we equally need to encourage parents to value and take care of their own lives.
Being a parent you equally need to value, nourish and create time for the friendships and relationships in your own life; to create time for your own fitness and well-being; to share a coffee with a friend; to create time for meaningful and happy times alone; to nourish your own mind by reading, with music, by going to the theatre, by listening to radio and television you enjoy.
Always remember, we can only give others what we have nourished and stored within our very own selves. And while, in the main, parents will always put their children first, it is equally important to remember there are times when, as a parent, you do come first. Find that balance and when you do then life, as well as school, will blossom and strengthen. Enjoy that journey with your family, with your friends, with your students, and equally remember, at times, alone.
Marie Barrett is a director and founder of MBCS, Marie Barrett Career Services, Loughrea, Co. Galway. She is author of The Education Guide and contributes to national and local radio education programmes. MBCS works, individually, with second- and third-level students and parents, and with adults. Contact: (091 ) 841424. E-Mail: [email protected]