6 Ways to recognise when your child needs a break

We all want our children to be successful when they grow up - that’s why we push them to do things that they would normally avoid, from learning how to clean up after themselves to studying hard for their exams. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that their happiness is what we really want for them, and that stress can prevent them from being happy even as they learn to become functioning members of society.

It’s therefore important that we ensure our children get a break whenever they need it, to help maintain their mental health and happiness. In order to do that, we’ll need to be able to spot some telltale signs of excessive stress and burnout.

Here’s six possible signs that your child might need a break:

#1: Lack of adequate sleep: Children should get plenty of rest. In fact, they often require 8-10 hours of sleep to be healthy. However, they may not be getting adequate sleep for various reasons such as too much studying, ill-health, or other stresses affecting their lives. If you see that your child has not been having enough sleep recently, it’s worth allowing them some time to catch up with a nap.

#2: Illness or infections: When a child falls ill, they’re definitely in no shape to study or participate in activities. When that happens, they should be allowed rest to let their bodies recuperate - even when exams are looming! Forcing them to continue working even when sick can cause their condition to worsen, and it may foster bad habits like not taking good care of themselves when they’re older.

#3: Too much irritability and tantrums in behaviour: A child usually reacts to excessive stress by being irritable and throwing tantrums more often than usual - not unlike adults that are experiencing burnout at work. Instead of immediately disciplining them for their seemingly bad behaviour, try to see things their way and identify the root cause of their unhappiness, then try to help them overcome it while giving them ample opportunity to recover from that stress.

#4: Lack of attention in studies: Besides getting angry, upset, and argumentative, another symptom of excessive stress is the act of mentally distancing oneself from the present. This means your child might be more absent-minded and unfocused when studying, no matter how much encouragement or nagging they may receive. When this happens, it may be helpful to give them a break to rest and recover, so that they may regain the motivation to jump back into their studies.

#5: Social isolation: Everyone is different when it comes to the desire to socialise. Some want to be around people all the time, while others prefer to be by themselves. But when your child is keeping to themselves more often than usual, it’s time to take notice and find out what’s up. If it’s due to burnout due to study and exams, give them some time to pursue their own passions or just relax for a bit. Alternatively, you could also bring them out and spend time with them for a day, just to reconnect and find out what’s going on with their lives.

#6: Hectic schedule of classes: These days, a child’s education isn’t just about attending classes anymore. There’s tons of CCA-related things to keep up with, tuition lessons to attend, and even ballet or piano classes (depending on what they signed up for). Naturally, the constant rush can wear a child down over time if they’re given little to no downtime. If this is happening to your child, pay attention to their schedule and look for pockets of free time that they can use to rest and relax. Better yet, you can also deliberately carve out some time by allowing them to skip the occasional class - this little ‘treat’ may be appreciated by your child much more than you think.

Every child needs a break once in a while from their studies, and there are many reasons for it. While it’s important to make sure that they get enough time and opportunities to rest, it’s arguably even more crucial that us parents be able to identify when our children desperately need them. For all we know, they might just be hiding their pain away from us due to their desire to make us proud, and it’s our duty to make sure that they don’t overwork themselves because of it.

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