Watching children grow is the source of happiness for many parents, but parenting can also be stressful. This is especially an issue in Hong Kong where schools are competitive. Some mothers believe that they are obliged to perfect their children’s homework; if she is a working mother, the double-responsibilities of work and the family can be overwhelming.
How these pressures can be relieved? Let’s look into the analysis from Dr Alex Chiu, Medical Director, Health and Employee Benefits of AXA Hong Kong and Macau, and Dr Ting Sik-chuen, Psychiatrist and Vice-Chairman of Mental Health Foundation.
The Dilemma: when children’s homework becomes yours
In the following scenario, a working mother faces a dilemma: arriving home after 9pm but still has work to be done, she found that her child has uncompleted homework because he wanted her accompany to finish the parts that he did not understand. If you were the mother, what would you do?
1. No matter how late, finish the homework with him before starting your own work;
2. Let him sleep and do the homework for him instead, so that you can begin your work earlier. Follow up with him the homework at a later time.
If you choose to finish the homework with him, he probably cannot finish the homework until late at night while you will feel anxious about you unfinished work. When you finally begin to work, you are already exhausted. You will naturally feel depressed and even lose temper.
If you choose to do the homework for him, you would probably worry about its drawbacks to your son, for example, he may be coming unwilling to do homework on his own and a potential impact to his future studies. You may be blaming yourself for this while you work and again fall into the undesirable situation of depression and temper tantrums.
“Do your own homework” to develop sense of responsibility and confidence
Both Dr Chiu and Dr Ting believe that the hypothetical story reveals the problem with mainstream education for children in Hong Kong. Most parents in Hong Kong desire for their children’s outstanding academic performance. Consequently, they would check their homework before handing in. As such, doing homework has become the responsibility of the parents instead of the children which further intensify the stress of the parents, and filial relationship is damaged.
For the abovementioned case, Dr Chiu would recommend against going either; instead, mother should leave his homework unfinished and have her son experience the failure and frustration. This is conducive to developing the child’s sense of responsibility and his ability of handling failure. Obviously, this is also a training for the parents to learn how to let go. On the other hand, Dr Ting said the child may become unwilling to make mistakes and unconfident with parents’ habitual attendance to his homework. Children should do his homework and have his teacher correct his mistakes and learn from them.
Talk it out if you grow wearing; get a doctor if worse
Taking both roles of a bread earner and a mother is not easy at all. Dr Chiu said there is no need to be too demanding to yourself, or constantly comparing yourself with others. If you feel difficult and stressed, don’t hesitate to talk to other people for some relief. You may also get some useful advice. If frictions and conflicts break out with your children, consider leaving the “fight scene” as soon as possible to calm down yourself. Dr Ting suggests adjusting your expectations to your children. Understanding that everyone has strengths and weaknesses makes life easier for you.
Stress does need to be relieved. According to the recent “AXA Wellness Index” survey, when facing stress, 38% of Hong Kong respondents would talk to people, 31% would play electronic games, 27% would travel, while 8% would do nothing at all. The probe also found that 16% of Hongkongers would resort to drinking or smoking in stress management. Dr Chiu emphasised that one must refrain from such negative actions and cause harm to health for the sake of alleviating pressure.
Dr Ding said that if parents feel depressed under long-term parenting pressure so that they develop symptoms such as inability to concentrate, reduced work efficiency and insomnia for more than two weeks, they may require medical attention. He adds that while it is normal to feel angry or depressed sometimes because of children’s behaviour, it is better to have an evaluation with family doctor if their reactions go overboard like smashing things out of anger, rising blood pressure and heartbeat and so on.