'We don't focus on grades': Parents on what has changed in their approach to kids over the past year, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

'We don't focus on grades': Parents on what has changed in their approach to kids over the past year

This article is more than 12 months old

In the past, Ms Elaine Tan's main concern was supporting her child in getting good grades.

But now, her priority is making sure her daughter is happy and mentally healthy.

In the past year or so, she has taken a softer parenting approach towards her daughter, who is a second-year junior college student at River Valley High School (RVHS).

On July 19 last year, a 16-year-old student there allegedly murdered a fellow student, 13, in school.

It has been a learning curve for parents of students at the school, who said they have been switching their focus to monitoring their children's emotional well-being and taking care not to add to their stress.

Some parents also said the school had stepped up efforts to support students, with offers of counselling services regularly communicated to students and parents through phone calls and e-mails.

Ms Tan said she has reflected on her parenting style and realised she had been focusing on the wrong things.

Previously, she would have encouraged her daughter to spend hours doing assessment books.

She said: "As long as it was graded, I wanted her to do well. I hired several tutors for her to help her with subjects she was weak at.

"But it didn't occur to me that mental well-being was something to consider."

In the past year, she has been prioritising her daughter's mental health by checking in daily on her daughter, 18.

Ms Tan, 50, a part-time lecturer, said: "I feel the kids are already in a competitive environment. The least they need is for us parents to add more stress.

"I would try to find out how her day has been in school, rather than ask about results and when the next test is coming. I think that is a way to help children cope with stress."

The school, located in Boon Lay Avenue, has 12- to 18-year-old students and offers a six-year Integrated Programme. This allows them to skip the O levels and take the A levels in their sixth year.

Ms Jocelyn Chan, 45, who has a 15-year-old son studying at the school, has become more careful about what she says to him, especially when he is stressed about school.

Ms Chan, who owns a mobile-phone shop, said: "I don't ask too many questions. I will let him explain how he is feeling, and from there, I see how best I can help."

She also has an 18-year-old daughter studying at another school, and said she has stopped harping on academic achievements on a daily basis and instead waits for the children to go to her if they need help.

For instance, tuition is on the cards only if her children ask for it.

Some parents said they have noticed that RVHS newsletters do not focus solely on grades, but also celebrate other kinds of success, including staying healthy.

Ms Tan said: "Now, I see more write-ups on how the school wants to partner parents and how students can approach the school for help if they need any counselling and consultation."

The parent-teacher association at the school has also been organising wellness seminar talks for parents and encourages students to participate in them.

Ms June Fong, a senior forensic psychologist at Promises Healthcare, called for more resources to be available to parents to help them support their children's well-being beyond just schools.

She said: "I believe parents are generally eager and invested in learning how to support their children, but they just don't know how to."

She added that parents need to find the right approach at home to connect with their children and should not hesitate to go for parenting workshops.

Ms Lin Xinhuan, 39, who has a 15-year-old daughter studying in RVHS, said home is the first place where students' well-being begins.

The freelance tutor, who also has a 14-year-old son in another school, said she makes sure she spends enough time with her children so that they feel comfortable talking about anything with her.

She added: "There's openness and trust in the household. I try not to judge, no matter what they say."