Guest blog post by Wassana Lampech

There is an undeniable link between adequate parental involvement in education and the child’s success later in life. Parents play the role of mentors, counsellors, tutors and motivators. When parent are not involved in their kids’ education because of stress, the effects can be profound.

The Pivotal Role of Parental Engagement

Parents obviously play a critical role in the development of a child. They will directly impact how an infant perceives the world as well as how he or she reacts to specific circumstances. This takes on the form of mirroring from an early age; the child will mimic the actions and responses of the parent. Thus, adults who are cognizant about the importance of education are much more likely to instill the same perspective in their children.

Conversely, a lack of parental involvement in education due to stress can result in truly detrimental outcomes. Let us take a closer look at the effects as well as some useful coping techniques.

Parental Expectations in Education

We should note that the expectations of a parent have been directly correlated with the level of educational achievement a child can expect to obtain. Parents who exhibit high hopes are often associated with children that excel within the scholastic environment; particularly during the younger years. However, let us also keep in mind that this will depend upon the relationship between the parent and child. Those who develop strong and stress-free bonds are more likely to exert a positive influence.

Parental Participation in Education

It should come as no surprise that a greater level of parental involvement will lead to positive outcomes such as higher literacy scores (by up to 12 points) and a greater level of confidence in the child. Still, we once again need to stress that this involvement should reflect a positive and proactive sense of participation. Those who negatively influence their child’s educational development as a result of misdirected stress will ultimately undermine any progress that may have already been made. This is why the associated resource and time commitments need to foster a sense of momentum and positive reinforcement in order for the child fully absorb the associated educational opportunities.

The Debilitating Impact of Stress on the Child

When a parent is stressed or otherwise exhibits negative behaviors, he or she tends to be inwardly focused as opposed to appreciating the effects that such emotions can have upon a child. As a result, the educational development of a child will suffer as a result. This observation has been backed up by an extensive amount of research. For instance, a 2014 study found that parental stress often correlates with low-income households. 83 per cent of children from these households exhibited below-average reading comprehension at by the age of 12. Many of these parents assume that the scholastic environment is to blame. On the contrary, parents are more important than teachers in a child’s education.

Another massive stumbling block related to parental stress is how this behavior can quickly become adopted by the child. Let us imagine for a moment that the child is having difficulty with a science project. He or she asks the parent for help only to be met with a cold shoulder or a scolding. It is much less likely that assistance will be requested in the future. The simple fact of the matter is that children have a difficult (if not impossible) time understanding that the stress is not somehow the result of their actions. If this stress is then mimicked, their level of education will almost invariably suffer.

Coping with Real-World Stress: Effective Solutions

All parents will deal with stress from time to time. Whether referring to a transient episode or a more profound situation (such as divorce), the good news is that not all hope is lost. There are a number of effective ways to deal with this stress so that it will not be negatively manifested in the behavior of the child. The first step is to become aware of its existence. This can be accomplished by noticing changes in your behavior and perhaps more importantly, the behavior of your child. A handful of other effective methods include attending joint parental activities in order to appreciate the coping methods of others, using a dedicated and private phone counselling service, consulting with a marital therapist or psychologist or adopting emotionally healthy activities such as exercise or meditation, etc.

Above all, always recall that healthy family relationships have a positive impact on your child and communicating with a child is the most important step. Explain to him or her that they are not the cause of your stress. Foster a transparent relationship from the very beginning so that small educational hurdles can be overcome before they evolve into lifelong bad habits.