Posted by: Sara Carbone on: January 23, 2012
Below is an interview with Sarah Schrag, a former student of mine when she was in high school. She currently attends Boston University.
Sara Carbone: What do parents do that doesn’t work?
Sarah Schrag: Parents generally act in ways that the think helps their child, but their kid may never tell them how damaging it is. I’ve known kids whose parents are overly involved in their lives around school. They ground them if they get below a certain grade or badger the school to get their kids placed in an honors class. I have friends who dread going home if they are struggling because instead of helping them, their parents would make them feel like it was all their fault. It gets really bad around the college application process. Parents push and push, which hurts their kids.
I’d like to say to them “I wish you’d see what you’re doing to your kids. You’re not helping them, you’re making them miserable and scared. You’re not helping them help themselves.”
SC: What did your parents do to help you with school struggles?
SS: My parents have always had a great philosophy. If I’m struggling with something they don’t criticize or punish. Instead, we sit down and try to understand the problems and what I can do differently. I tend to work hard and make the same mistakes; they help me reframe my perspective on my situation.For example, with time management, which is a big struggle for me, they took a problem solving approach and helped me strategize. They taught me to use my past success with color coding, to use due dates that are well before the actual due date, or to break down the assignment into manageable bytes.
SC: What are the biggest stressors for kids in school?
SS: Kids’ biggest fears about school are being overwhelmed by the amount of work. They get freaked out if they don’t get an A or get into some top college. Also, friend issues and other social problems can get really hard. These range from stupid fights with friends, to sex, drugs, cyber bullying and dating. The same old stuff really.
Too much stress at one time leads to a nervous breakdown. When I was in high school, nervous breakdowns were pretty common as were taking mental health days from school. The pressure these days to excel academically is so great that it has reached the point of unhealthy. What is even more upsetting is that the competition is so great that “learning” really means learning how to take a test and how to cram a certain amount of information into your brain. The novelty of learning for the sake of knowledge is rarely seen. It’s sad.