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Help your child succeed at school

Parents are their child’s first teachers and have a key role in shaping their child’s character.

This is according to Boitumelo Moses, a clinical psychologist at Bophelong Psychiatric Hospital in Mahikeng.

She highlighted the important role parents should play in holistically supporting children of school-going age.

“Parental encouragement plays a crucial role in producing successful students. It is also important to realise that a parent’s role is not limited to the home but should include involvement in school activities too,” Moses explained.

“A child’s learning scale is highly related to how they are treated at home,” she added.

Academic support

Moses said parents should support their children academically by assisting them with homework if needed, checking that they have done their homework and assignments and paying attention to whatever difficulties a child might be having.

Parents are also encouraged to attend parents’ meetings to keep informed of any challenges their child might be experiencing in the classroom.

She said it is of utmost importance for parents to encourage learners to read.

According to Moses, top financial responsibilities that parents have include paying school fees, ensuring that children have safe transportation to and from school and buying stationery, clothes and food.

Ultimately, Moses advises parents to be patient with their children and with themselves.

“Find something that works for you as a parent and for your child as an individual. And lastly, love your children unconditionally,” she said.

Emotional and psychological support

Moses also stresses the importance of parents providing emotional and psychological support to children who may be struggling with depression and other forms of mental illness.

The most importance piece of advice she has is that parents should not expect their children to be perfect.

“Everyone makes mistakes. No one is 100 percent perfect in every aspect of life. Be proud of any achievements that your child makes, no matter how small. Don’t be too punitive. Always keep communication channels open. Be supportive and understanding of their needs.”

She adds that one of the most important ways to provide emotional and psychological support to your child is to be present.

Family time

Parents often have very busy schedules and have little time to spend with their children, which is why family time should be optimally used, says Moses.

“Ask how your child’s day was; what made them happy; what made them sad; ask about their friends; what subjects they do or don’t enjoy and why.”

Moses encourages parents to listen to what their child tells them and to pay attention to their mood swings. Parents should respond lovingly and with empathy to any problems that the child might be having.

“If your child is experiencing emotional or psychological problems, seek professional help. There is no shame in asking for help.”

She says there are a number of domestic factors that may contribute to a child’s poor performance at school. These include poverty, unstable structure in the household, poor relationships between family members and between parents, divorce and harsh discipline.

Prioritise a child’s well-being

Principal clinical psychologist in the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s psychiatric department, Lillian Nkosi, agrees that parents should always pay attention to their children’s well-being.

According to Nkosi, parents should be concerned if their child is sad more often than not, especially if there is a history of depression in the family.

“Learners suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness should be referred to a clinical psychologist and a child psychiatrist for psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.”

Nkosi emphasises that it is important to listen to children when they speak about situations at school that worry them, such as bullying. Actively address the issues raised by speaking to the child’s teacher, she said.

“Learners who struggle to perform well at school should be assessed by an educational psychologist or an occupational therapist to determine if they are suitable for mainstream education or a school for learners with special educational needs.”

According to the Department of Basic Education, effectively engaging parents and families in the education of their children has a positive influence on the success of the learners. Currently, the level of parent and community participation in schools is low.

Parents who need advice can contact the Department of Basic Education’s call centre at 0800 202 933 or email callcentre@dbe.gov.za

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published by GCIS South Africa


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