This is a guest post by Mr Alex Devadass, a former vice-principal in MOE Schools.
After every holiday period, I would always ask my students what they did and whether they enjoyed the holidays. Sometimes I would get them to reflect and write a piece of journal entry on their holidays and their experiences. Each time, I would get a range of replies and reflections. In my 20 years in education, I have seen my fair share of diverse holiday experiences and how these experiences have an impact on my students. Let me illustrate with 3 such reflections.
Max (not his real name) wrote: I woke up, had breakfast, watched television, played computer games, revised my work, watched television, showered and then had dinner when my parents came home. This happened every day of my June holidays. The usual things happening. I missed school and my friends.
Aishah (not her real name) wrote: My family and I went to Genting Highlands. We played at the amusement park. I enjoyed myself and we were a happy family. Those were the best 3 days of my life. I finally spent time with my father who is always busy working.
Arvinth (not his real name) wrote: I did badly in my exams so my mother gave me assessment books to do. I did them every day. In the last week, my mother rewarded me by bringing my sister and me to watch a movie. We also went to Legoland for one day. Thank you mummy for bringing us there.
What do these 3 reflections have in common? Can you relate to any of them as a parent? The students’ reflections told me that they only found incidental joy and excitement in what happened during the holidays. Max even missed school which should not be the case as the holidays should mean more to him. Aishah and Arvinth showed that they only valued that one or 3 days (over 4 weeks of holidays, 28 days!) they had with their parents and also the fact that they just did what their parents told them.
In fact, in recent times, views on whether the school holidays are actually a break has been widely publicised in the media. Some parents have questioned the need for excess work given during holidays as well as the additional lessons during holidays. Schools have moved to minimise these and some have even eradicated such practices completely as schools feel that there is a need for the children to have a complete break and rejuvenation period over the holidays.
This is where, you as parents play a key role. Let me share with you my 5 tips on how you can help your children garner and feel your love, care and support during the holidays. These 5 tips that I will share will allow you and your children to reach an optimal level of understanding and possibly strengthen the parents and children relationship.
Tip 1 – Plan Together
How many of you parents allow your children to sit down and plan what they will do during the holidays? Be honest and raise your hands if you do! If you allow your children to plan what they wish to achieve during the holidays, it does not mean that you have to give in to all their wishes. This is where you will need to be discerning and teach your children to be discerning as well. My daughter Alycia works out a weekly timetable with me. Of course, I will put in some study time, some play time, and I also allow a certain amount of time where she can choose what she wants to do as long as it stays within certain boundaries, which brings me to my second tip for you.
Fun Idea – Get your children to list the top 3 activities or places they want to go with you during these holidays and make it happen!
Tip 2 – Explain Expectations
Set and explain your expectations and boundaries openly with your children. If they have not done well in the examinations, explain to them why they have to spend a certain amount of time revising their work. Ask your children: “Which subject do you feel you need more help in?” Let them reflect and allow them to identify their areas they have to improve. Once they are able to accept it at their level, you will not need to force them to complete assessment book after assessment book. Likewise, give them the opportunity to explain to you why they would choose an activity that you may not necessarily agree with. This collaboration works out to be a win-win situation. My youngest, Jay-Sean, used to love doing assessment papers but recently he has lost interest, and so I asked him why and he said he did not see a need for it and he was lazy. So now I have a deal with him. He has promised to complete a certain amount of work, and in exchange, he has asked for time on his iPad. I must say it has worked wonders for both him and myself, as he is improving in his work, and doing his work as accurately as possible allows him to indulge in his favourite pastime – games on the iPad. As parents sometimes we tend to add on to our children’s level of stress at school and we allow very little flexibility in how we handle them. Trust me, I too am guilty of that, which brings us to the third tip.
Fun Idea – Allow your children to identify what perks or rewards (an ice cream adventure at Swensen’s or more TV time) they can get if they meet your expectations.
Tip 3 – Allow Flexibility
“I am your father, you must listen to what I say!” or “you are only a child, I am saying this for your own good. Just do what I tell you to do!” How many of us have said this before to our children. As adults, we tend to think we are always right and that what we say or expect must be cast in stone. Well, try this, allow flexibility when you handle and talk to your children. You will be amazed at the impact this will have on your relationship with your children. If you want to reap the rewards from Tips 1 and 2, you must exercise flexibility. Flexibility with understanding and control goes a long way to making your children feel appreciated and understood. Let your children adjust some elements of what they have to do during the holidays. They may not be able to finish some of their work today – it is fine, let them know they can move it to another day where they have more time. Set aside some time when you return home from work to spend a little more time than usual, especially during these June holidays. It is one thing to get your children to do some work during the holidays but you must make sure that you are there at the end of the day to ask them how the day went and look through the work you asked them to do. If possible, implement Tip 4.
Fun Idea – Surprise your children by just allowing them to do their favourite activities for a particular day without any warning. So a planned day can be replaced with a spontaneous day where they can choose what they want (of course within the boundaries)
Tip 4 – Coach Them
Many parents told me years back, “Mr Alex, the Math problems are so difficult. I do not know how to coach and teach my children. No choice have to get tuition for them because I cannot help them.” How many of you face that situation? Well, fret not as you can coach your children in the areas that you are familiar with and comfortable with. You can bet your last dollar that no matter which area you coach them in, your children will appreciate the fact that you are spending some time with them during the holidays. There are also so many platforms that you can turn to online to help you and your children understand concepts and solve problems together. It is just a Google away. There is also software available that allows your children to learn and improve their work on their own, and you can be a guide to explain if they find it a tad difficult. So coaching your children does not always mean you need to be a subject expert. You need to be a guide to spend that 20 minutes or 30 minutes a day – especially now, during the June holidays – to point your children in the direction where they can find the possible solutions.
Fun Idea – Search online for the best Mathematics, English or Science platforms which have interactive games and explanations for your children to get on to improve their work. It need not always be best to use assessment books or papers to help them improve in their subjects. Allow some online activities or purchase relevant software that aids in helping your children.
Tip 5 – The last but most important Tip…
The last tip I have for you is the most crucial tip that we as parents tend to overlook so many times. Enjoy Yourself!
Fun Idea – Cook or bake with your children, do art with your children, learn a musical instrument with them. Put aside the work you have to do and give your children that quality time they crave for and this is the best time to do it. Just do something fun and spontaneous to give your children and yourselves memories that last.
It is the June holidays, make it a point for your children and you to enjoy yourselves. If you recall what was shared by my students Aishah and Arvinth, what mattered to them was the chance to enjoy themselves together with their parents even if it was for one or three days. What I am encouraging you to do is to make sure that you plan activities that allow your family to enjoy yourselves over this June holidays. Your children and you deserve it, so give yourselves a break from the daily routines and make this June holidays matter. If you do, I can guarantee you that you will have no regrets. In fact you and your children will enjoy Peace…
So, I wish you a fantastic and enriching June holidays with your children. Do try some or better still, all the tips I have shared. I am definitely going to try them with my children. Before I end, let me leave you with this beautiful poem by Jenn Gigowski.