Tag: Teens

Homework with teens

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Homework with Teens - Developing their Organisational Skills

The word ‘homework’ for many teenagers and their parents evokes feelings of dread, frustration and sheer agony. While most teens and parents understand the reasons for being given homework, namely to help develop sound study habits, to foster learning outside the school environment, consolidate the learning undertaken in class and foster independence and responsibility, homework time can quickly become a battleground in which family tensions can rise to boiling point. The debate surrounding homework and its benefits have been ongoing since the early 20th century.

During the 1940’s homework was given less emphasis as schools moved away from utilising rote- learning and memorisation as a key teaching focus to a more skills-based problem solving approach to learning. Again in the 1960’s, homework was given less emphasis as concerns were raised about it’s detrimental impact on children’s social and recreational activity time. Nowadays, there appears to be a more balanced approach with a recognition of the importance of children enjoying recreational time as well as time engaged in more structured homework activity.

Benefits of Homework

Research is clearly telling us that homework can have significant benefits for a child. Generally speaking, studies are showing us that academic achievement is improved for children who partake in some homework (Cooper, Robinson & Patall, 2006). However, there are additional factors which appear to influence the positive relationship between homework and academic achievement. Firstly, the relevance and applicability of homework appears important, with homework that has clear, specific learning purposes having a stronger positive relationship with academic outcomes.

Additionally, the time spent on homework does not simply have a linear relationship with academic outcome. Interestingly, research suggests that there is a point at which too much time given to homework can be counterproductive and fail to enhance academic achievement for children. Lastly, the amount and type of parental involvement can moderate the benefits of homework. Parental involvement in homework which is over-structured, controlling and negative can diminish the positive effects of homework on achievement for children.

Where should our focus be?

While there are a multitude of factors which may impact on how children respond to homework tasks, such as the family environment, their relationship with the school and teacher, personality factors and learning strengths and weaknesses, children’s organisational skills play an important role in how they achieve academically. Organisational skills are skills that relate to not only a child managing their own belongings and materials (for example, transferring their homework into their diaries and bringing the diary home), but also their ability to plan and allocate time to tasks such as homework (for example, breaking down projects into manageable sections and allocating time to each section accordingly) (Langberg, Epstein, Becker, Girio-Herrera & Vaughn, 2012).

For children in their teens, organisational skills appear to play a significant role in predicting children’s academic achievement (Langberg et al., 2012). The difficulty is, the teen years, particularly those around the transition into high school are a time when children’s organisational skills appear to be most compromised, given the changing environment associated with high school (for example, multiple classroom and teacher changes), increased demands on children to be independent and greater amounts of work (Langberg et al., 2012).

So how can parents help?

Research and clinical experience tells us that parents play an integral role in helping their children manage their homework tasks.

  • Evaluate your own attitude: Look closely at the messages your child hears or sees from you about homework. It is likely that if you have a negative attitude, your child will also. Reframe homework as a task that is part of every child’s schooling life and focus on the benefits it can bring, such as greater academic confidence, a sense of achievement and important life skills.
  • Establish a routine: work with your child to develop a shared structure of when and how they will do their homework. Empower your child to be part of the process and let them make some of the choices around homework time. Try to have family routines set, so children can plan homework and other activities around family time such as dinner. With your child, also establish some boundaries, such as charging their phone in another room at homework time and having the TV off as well as an appropriate timeframe for homework completion.
  • Set the scene: make the best of homework time and ensure your home environment is set up to help your child focus and feel comfortable. Set children up in a quiet area and ensure your child has appropriate seating, lighting and other things necessary for homework, such as pencils, snacks and water. It can also be helpful to look at your child’s goals and focus on how homework may help them achieve those goals (for example, how maths can help them in opening their own cafe).
  • Natural consequences: rather than engaging in a battle about homework, it may be appropriate for your child to learn the consequences of not handing in their homework given by their school. This may help to develop your child’s sense of responsibility and ownership over homework completion and relieve some of the pressure parents may feel with homework tasks.
  • Communicate with your school and teacher: find out from your child’s teacher your role in their learning and homework and what added supports you may need to provide for your child. Communication with your child’s teacher on homework tasks can also help you to support your child’s organisational skills, ensuring they are managing their time and on task for homework deadlines.
  • Timetable relaxation time with plenty of options: exercise and relaxation time are well established to not only be beneficial for our stress levels, mood and physical health, but also for our concentration and attentional abilities. Scheduling time off will help your child develop their own hobbies, skills, gifts and talents and support their learning.
  • Help your child develop their organisational skills: Helping children become better organised not only enhances the possibility of homework arriving home, but also of it being completed on time! Develop an organisational system to help children remember to write down their homework and bring it home (for example, develop a colour coded timetable for each subject or a checklist for what they need to remember to pack before home time). Visual reminders with pictures of what a child needs to remember can be helpful. Additionally, when your child receives an assignment help them break it down and plan out how they will approach it. It is often helpful for children to work out what is most difficult so they can work on those tasks first when they feel more alert and focused.
  • Set an example: children will generally find it difficult to go off and start their homework if the rest of the family is enjoying a TV show. When your child is doing their homework try and engage in a similar activity, such as reading, completing your own work or household chores. This demonstrates to your child that you too have discipline and responsibility and that you are respectful to the effort they are putting into their work. Being interested and helpful without being too interfering or directive will also help develop your child’s sense of responsibility and independence in homework tasks. Praise your child for effort and commitment and utilise rewards that are unlikely to compete with homework activities, such as verbal praise and time with you rather than extra TV or iPad time.
  • Develop incidental learning experiences for your child: take opportunities to learn outside desk-based homework time. This will help foster your child’s enjoyment in the learning process.
  • Recognise when things are difficult: Some children find learning more difficult than others and may find homework tasks overwhelming and deflating. If you are concerned your child is having significant difficulty with their homework tasks, consult with their teacher and utilise resources that may be available, such as homework club, learning support or tutoring. Most schools have a homework policy which may be helpful in reviewing homework for your child.

While homework can be a tricky time, particularly for teens and their parents, supporting children in developing their organisational skills, sense of independence and responsibility can help foster a sense of achievement and confidence that will help set them up for future success!

Resources: How to do Homework without throwing up by Trevor Romain

References:

1. NSW Government Education and Communities Public Schools NSW Fact Sheet: Homework: a parent guide http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/homework/index.php

2. Langberg, J., Epstein, J., Becker, S., Girio-Herrera, E. & Vaughn, A. (2012). Evaluation of the Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention for Middle School Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as Implemented by School Mental Health Providers. School PSychology Review, 41 (3), 342-364.

3. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.

4. Knollmann, M. & Wild, E. (2007). Quality of parental support and student’s emotions during homework: Moderating effects of students’ motivational orientations. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XXIII (1), 63-76.

Feisty Young Girls

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

FeistyGirls_Quirky Kid

 

Some girls are feisty from the get go, from fussy babies to tantruming toddlers. The pre teen or “tween” years though, can be the time which parents find most confounding. At this time parents can struggle with everything from girls (and boys) becoming increasingly defiant to the ‘sexualisation’ of young girls and navigating increasingly complicated relationships with peers.

Between the ages of 8 and 13, children are expected to push the boundaries and this is a part of becoming more independent. You can therefore expect girls at this age to disagree with you, show a bit of ‘attitude’, take risks and want to be more like their friends. Remember, “this too shall pass”. In the meantime, you can support your child by guiding her behaviour with clear rules, warm relationships and an understanding of why teenagers behave the way they do.

For example, their brain are still developing: the ability to control our impulses does not fully mature until 25! Pre teens and teens, therefore, are more likely to make decisions based on emotion and have poor foresight. They are also often sensitive, moody and unpredictable. This poor ability to foresee consequences and make informed decisions can be offset by helping to build a pre teen’s confidence so that she can avoid bad situations, bad relationships and be able to say no.

Just because they are getting older doesn’t mean your girls don’t need rules and boundaries. Instead of imposing these on them, set agreed limits that teach independence, responsibility and problem solving. This will lead them to develop their own standards for what is appropriate and how others should be treated. Praise and encouragement, of course, is still important at this age so let her know what she is doing right. Also, although rude and disrespectful behaviour is common at this age that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable. Collaborate with your child on rules about this type of behaviour and then model what you would like to see youself. In the moment, stay calm and wait for the right time to talk about it. When the situation has cooled and can be talked about, let her know how you feel e.g. “I feel hurt when you speak to me like that.” Fighting between siblings is also common at this time and is a normal part of growing up which teaches us life skills like conflict resolution.

The pre teen years are a time when girls are dealing with peer pressure, possibly bullying or cyberbullying and the need to begin taking risks. An increasingly important role for parents and other adults at this time is to help girls to develop a positive self image. It is difficult for them to ignore the messages from TV, music, movies, the web and clothing stores which sometimes encourage girls to be “sexy” and base their self worth on how they look at a time when they are not physically or emotionally ready. The belief held by young girls that they must dress a certain way to fit in is part of growing up. They feel pressure to conform because dress is part of their social code. As parents we can tune in to media that is targeting our girls and then talk to them about it.

  • Talk about the qualities they value in their friends and how important these are versus physical attractiveness.
  • Have conversations about TV shows, dolls and outfits that you don’t like instead of giving a blanket “no” and encourage activities where she excels that take the focus off looks and being cool.
  • Most importantly, don’t lecture! Ask for your girls’ opinion and try to listen more than you speak. At this time it is also important to not avoid sex education but rather find out what the school is teaching so you can follow up at home. This goes beyond “where babies come from” and is about choices, behaviour and relationships. Ask your daughter’s opinion about these things, she is probably just as conservative as you are! Overall, be a healthy role model and avoid talking about feeling “fat”, “ugly” or going on diets around your daughter.

The pre teen years are a time when we expect girls to get a little feistier but some will show this more than others. Disruptive behaviour is known to pass through generations so if you were a feisty young girl there is a good chance your daughter will be too. You can buffer against this by fostering a warm relationship and setting firm but fair boundaries. Remember to talk to your girls so you can support them through what can be a tough time. You may sometimes get a ‘brick wall’ but meet them where they are by setting aside special time and being available when they come to you.

References:

Helping girls develop a positive self image. Australian Psychological Society (website)

Molen et. al., (2011). Maternal Characteristics Predicting Young Girls’ Disruptive Behaviour. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 40 (2), 179 – 190

Pre-teens behaviour: in a nutshell. Raising Children Network (website)

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Precocious Puberty

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

While puberty is a normal and natural progression into sexual maturity, it is often a word that invokes memories, images and emotions of a time of change that for many adults was confusing, anxiety-provoking and embarrassing. While children most commonly enter puberty around the ages of 9-16 years for girls and 9-14 years for boys, for some children, the onset of the physical, hormonal and sexual changes associated with puberty happens at an earlier age. Early onset puberty, otherwise known as Precocious Puberty, is defined when a child shows signs of puberty before the age of 8-9 years (University of Michigan Health System). These signs may include: the budding of breasts, growth acceleration, pubic and underarm hair, body odor, menstrual bleeding and enlargement of the testes and penis.

Prevalence and Causes

Australian research suggests that around 16% of girls and 6% of boys enter puberty as young as 8 years old and research suggests that average age of puberty onset has reduced across the globe (ABC, 2013; Tremblay & Frigon, 2005). Typically the causes of Precocious Puberty are unknown. Some medical conditions, such as obesity and pituitary and adrenal gland problems appear to be related to the onset of Precocious Puberty for some. There is also speculation that environmental factors may play a role in triggering puberty in young children. For example, there is some emerging research suggesting a link between environmental chemicals and the disruption of the body’s endocrine system, initiating the premature onset of puberty, however, these links are currently tentative (ABC, 2013). Interestingly, recent research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne suggests that stress, anxiety and difficult peer relationships in the preschool years may increase children’s risk of entering Precocious Puberty (ABC, 2013). This latest research supports earlier findings that exposure to chronic stress can accelerate children’s progression into puberty (Tremblay & Frigon, 2005).

Impact

Entering puberty in adolescence is widely agreed to be a time of great change and adjustment. Not only are young people adjusting to the physical changes associated with puberty, but also managing the hormonal changes. Hormonal changes can be quite varied and dramatic and increase children’s risk to experiencing a whole host of emotional difficulties. For example, hormones such as estradiol and gonadal sex steroids, released during puberty, have been linked to increased levels of depression, anxiety and heightened emotionality amongst adolescents (Mendle, Turkheimer & Emery, 2007). Unfortunately, when children enter into puberty early, the challenges and changes encountered in puberty seem to be magnified. Children who experience Precocious Puberty have to manage significant  physical and hormonal changes at an earlier stage  to their peers and at a time when they are less likely to be both emotionally and cognitively ready (Mendle et al., 2007). Children experiencing Precocious Puberty have been found to be at increased risk of emotional and behavioural problems compared with their peers (ABC. 2013)

What can I do to support my child?

Supporting children entering puberty at any age is essential and for children who experience Precocious Puberty, support provided needs to be consistent, ongoing and involve the child’s wider support system.

  • Seek medical advice. While the causes of Precocious Puberty are most often unknown, in some cases it may be triggered by medical conditions that need to be addressed. Some helpful questions to ask your medical practitioner may be whether there are any known causes for your child’s symptoms, whether there is anything to slow or delay the process and the risks involved. Additionally, your medical practitioner may be able to provide advice on how to explain puberty to your child.
  •  Educate yourself and others. Gain an understanding of the changes that your child is likely to experience so you are best able to answer any questions or concerns your child may have. Discuss what you have learnt with your family and school community to ensure the people important in your child’s life are aware of the changes taking place for your child. It may also be appropriate to discuss these changes with your child’s best friend or close circle of friends to minimise your child feeling like they need to be secretive or isolated at this time.
  • Create an open and loving environment with your child. Be available to talk, listen to your child and keep your reactions calm. Children often worry about upsetting their parents with questions about sensitive topics so a keeping your reactions and emotions calm and supportive will help your child be open with you. Discussions about puberty are also likely to involve sensitive issues, so it is important to remain factual and calm to minimise children feeling uncomfortable or too embarrassed to discuss these changes.
  • Remember your child’s developmental age. Precocious puberty can be very confusing as children’s physical bodies are maturing ahead of their emotional and cognitive development, which can often change our own or others expectations of the child. For example, your child may be mistakenly viewed as older than they really are, and expected to behave and act like a much older child. Remind yourself, extended family and school of your child’s developmental age and the appropriate expectations for that age.
  • Expect and seek support for emotional changes and stress. Children who enter puberty earlier than their peers are more susceptible to changes in mood and emotional state than their peers. This can be most difficult and can often lead to children being misunderstood, isolated and in some cases, victimised. Help your child label their emotions, use positive coping strategies such as talking with their parents, and seek professional help if you notice marked changes to your child’s mood and anxiety levels.
  • Get practical. For children experiencing Precocious Puberty, what are seemingly small, normal, everyday activities, can become stressful and anxiety provoking. For example, going to the toilet at school can be distressing for girls who have started menstruating if they are worried about there not being enough toilet paper, soap or an appropriate disposal bin. Identify all the situations and places that may become difficult for your child and make plans for each (eg. pack a personal supply of toilet paper). During the readjustment period it may be necessary to simplify your child’s daily routine to minimise stress and worry by changing or taking a break from school-based activities (eg. swimming carnival) and extracurricular activities (eg. dance lessons).
  • Be your child’s safe haven. At a time where children can be feeling different, isolated and confused, be your child’s coach and cheering squad. Demonstrate love and affection and give your child all the affirmation they need by valuing and engaging in their skills, gifts, talents and interests. Ask close family members and friends to be actively involved in your child’s life and select a teacher at your child’s school who can provide your child with the extra support they need.

References

University of Michiagn Health System http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/puberty.htm

ABC News, April 3rd, 2013
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-03/study-finds-early-puberty-linked-to-child-mental-health/4606550Mendle, J., Turkheimer,

E. & Emery, R. (2007). Detrimental Psychological Outcomes Associated with Early Pubertal Timing in Adolescent Girls. Developmental Review, 27 (2): 151-171.

Tremblay, L. & Frigon, J. (2005). Precocious Puberty in Adolescent Girls: A Biomarker of Later Psychosocial Adjustment Problems. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 36 (1): 73-94.

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