Often, we see articles telling adults to take a break from work and start taking up hobbies. Maintaining a work-life balance does not just influence a person’s productivity at work, but overall it improves mood, relationships, and health. This makes sense considering an overwhelming amount of work does not just tire a person, it makes them grumpy and irritable.
If that is what work stress does to adults, what more to kids right? Child stress because of school is more prevalent now more than ever. There are IB schools in Singapore or Grammar schools in the UK which rigorous curriculums requiring students to work endless hours on projects and reports. While their educational framework may be holistic, and indeed effective, the pressure put on the shoulders of these kids to achieve greatness just wears them down.
As parents, we cannot control how much work is being assigned to our kids other than expressing our concern for its bulk. But what we can do is teach our kids to know when to step back and give themselves a much needed break.
Postpone work for a couple of minutes
When they come home from school, observe if they are tired or just look like they not in the right headspace. If they are, it might not be a good idea to start with homework immediately. Instead, tell them that they can rest for a few minutes to an hour so they can freshen up, maybe eat some snacks, before diving into their school work.
If they insist on starting their homework, ask if there is something that you can help with. This is so they can finish their work relatively early and still have time for a bit of play.
Find a routine that works
Sometimes kids just need to know what works for them so they can work happily and efficiently. Help them figure out a routine they are comfortable with and make sure they stick to it. See if they have a specific place in the house they prefer working at or music playing in the background. Also check if they are more productive at a certain time of day.
Once they are comfortable with the routine you have both created, expect that they will be able to complete their work properly and minimal stress.
Set time limits
The idea is to help them focus on one thing first so that they can switch from work to play in as few hours as they can manage. To do this, you will have to limit their screen time, allowing them a couple of minutes in between subjects to browse through their social media or watch TV before they can begin another task.
A technique called Pomodoro might help with this. It is a time management method which uses a timer to break work into intervals. The goal is to work for 25 minutes straight, and then rest for about 5 minutes. Depending on how much work is required for one subject, they may only need one sprint per subject.
What this does is ensure they get to rest in between work and at the same time still have time remaining for play or whatever they want to do right after.
Balancing work and play is all about setting expectations. If they learn how to stick to their plans so they can finish their tasks more efficiently, they will surely have more free time to work on things that excite them. Teach them how to stick to their work routine and their feelings toward school, and their mood overall, will be greatly improved.