On 21 October 2016, Singaporeans were shocked and saddened by the suicide of a Primary 5 boy. The court found that the cause of suicide was study and parental stress.
Over the weekend, social media was filled with posts from educators and parents alike. Much of the discussion revolved around the education system, and how such tragic deaths can be avoided. It will take time to change the system, but there is something we can do immediately to help prevent similar suicides.
Every study stress related suicide is one too many. And neither should students be so stressed that their mental health is impacted.
Many parents wanted to know what they could do to help their children cope with stress. And advice from educators trickled in. It turned out that some of the most useful materials were from the Ministry of Education.
We put together a collection of the best advice for you here.
1. Understand where the hardest study transitions are.
Most people say they are in Primary 1, Primary 5/6, Secondary 1 and then Secondary 3 – basically each time the exam format or study methodology changes. Do be on the alert for stress signals from your child especially during these transition years.
2. Be there for your child
Or in other words, be around to Talk, Ask and Discuss during these transitions. Are you available and approachable for heart-to-heart chats?
Let them know you care and even though you don’t have all the solutions, you will work it out together with your child.
3. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader!
Support, Affirm, Familiarize and Empathise. Even as we seek to develop our children’s fullest potential, we need to let them know that whether they succeed or fail in any particular test, exam or anything at all in life that they attempt, they are still your precious child.
Here’s how MOE suggests parents stand by their children in the transition years:
4. Learn to identify stress symptoms in your child.
Does your child show STRESS? Do take this seriously, especially if he or she shows more than one symptom.
5. The solution is Resilience.
We can’t say enough how important resilience is. Some studies have shown that this is the single most important factor for success in life. And certainly, it is not in doubt that a resilience child can withstand the shocks of failure better.
There are many words to describe resilience. One of our favourites is “bounce-back-ability”. Never stay down. Failure is only temporary. You haven’t lost till you give up trying.
Here is some useful information:
6. And as extra insurance, teach your child these:
- set goals
- be emotionally strong
- be good at problem-solving
- have positive thinking
- have good social skills
- have the full set of character strengths
There is also an excellent article on how resilience can come from having a sense of purpose – written by ex-MOE principal Jenny Yeo, and published by the Straits Times.
7. Get all the help you and your children need
There is no shame at all in asking for help, either as a parent or for your child to admit he/ she can’t cope.
Here are some useful numbers:
Suicide hotline – Samaritans of Singapore (24-hour hotline): 1800-221-4444
For children to call and have a listening ear/ advice – Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
For counselling – Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
For counselling in Mandarin – Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800
We suggest that you share the Tinkle Friend number with your children and let them know they can call that number at any time.
If your child suffers from depression, or could benefit from longer term professional help, you can consider consulting a child psychologist. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to refer you to a relevant professional.
8. Help your child realize their potential and self-worth in non-academic ways
Each child is unique. Here’s a popular cartoon making its round on the internet.
And what a good reminder! There is really no need to chase after academic grades if your child’s talents lie in other areas.
At Flying Cape, this is so much at the core of our thinking that we have worked across industries to bring you a specially designed Multiple Intelligence interest tool. It has been something we have worked on for months now, and it is all the more relevant in the context of the discussions today. We don’t earn any money off this. We just feel strongly enough that every child is unique to want to share this at our own cost.
9. Share examples of people who have succeeded on their own terms
Here’s an example to start you off: Zhi Rong failed his PSLE, scoring only 105 out of a possible 300. And today, he has graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Masters in Architecture. Zhi Rong embodies many of the positive qualities we discussed above. Read the full story here.
Even in the case of a huge setback beyond our control, it is never the end. Ex-commando and multiple-sport paralympian Eric Ting can attest to that. As can mouth painter Christina Lau. (Do drop us a note at email@example.com if you are looking for motivational speakers at your corporate or school events.)
Such inspirational stories give your child the permission he or she needs to carve out their own paths in life. And it would be a great path, if you have understood all the above and equipped your child with all the resilience, positivity and character strengths.
10. Let’s look out for each other
Zhi Rong wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of great teachers and friends.
This simple card was given to Zhi Rong by his Primary School teacher, Madam Jocelyn Lim. It marked a turning point in his life and he has kept this card till today.
You could be a neighbour, a teacher, an uncle or aunt. A kind word, a listening ear, an act of practical help – and you could be the one reason why a child lives on, and thrives. Let’s do this together. #SG51
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