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How to make Grade 4 less stressful

Childhood stress has significantly increased over the past couple of years. The increase in the amount of homework students receive, fear of failure, worrying about fitting in, self-identity and bullying are just a few of the many stress factors that children are exposed to in schools. Add a good dose of change, like changing grades and you may just have a recipe for the proverbial storm.

“Although a certain amount of stress is part of growing up, children may experience unnatural and excessive stress in times of change and adaptation,” says Jasmina Rowe, Clinical Practice Superviser at Kids Helpline.

In a child’s school career, there are three major periods when change and adaptation are required: Grade 1, Grade 4 and Grade 8. Traditionally, great emphasis is put on Grade 1 and Grade 8, but Grade 4 is often underestimated as a time of stress and adjustment for your child.

The 4 Factor

In Grade 4, your child will suddenly be introduced to a number of new and daunting things that may cause stress such as:

  • Where they were used to having only one, or maybe two teachers, they now have a new teacher for almost every subject
  • Where they were used to staying mostly in one class, they now have to move between classes, carrying heavy school bags
  • Where they were used to be only occasionally assessed, they are now assessed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis

As a parent, you can help reduce your child’s emotional stress.

Make an effort to:

  • Spend calm and relaxing time with your children on a regular basis
  • Listen to your kids and encourage them to talk about their feelings and worries – such as talking about all the new things they are exposed to
  • Use positive encouragement and rewards
  • Avoid being critical and negative about their school work, especially their test results
  • Demonstrate an active interest in your children’s school progress and support them with their learning and homework
  • Avoid over-scheduling children – allow them free time to play, read, listen to music or just 'veg–out’

Food 4 thought

Children thrive in a structured, disciplined environment which is why it makes sense to create good homework and study habits in Grade 4:

  • Set aside a specific time for homework, revision or daily reading
  • Create a space where homework and studying will always be done. This space should be free from distractions, neat and have all the stationery and tools needed to work effectively
  • Do not procrastinate. Teach your child to start working on projects when it is assigned and not to do a ‘last-minute-dot-com’
  • Spend time with your child. Remember that most Grade 4 learners do not have the ability to study independently for a test just yet. Find a study method that works for your child and spend at least the first term to help with studying and revision
  • Pack your bags the night before! Avoid early morning stress by telling your child to back his or her school bag and sports kit the night before – one less thing to worry and stress about
  • Go through your child’s school books on a weekly basis. This is the best way to assess how your child is coping with the workload. Do not wait for the first parent-teacher interview to find out that your child has not been coping
  • Do your part. Sign all reply slips, homework books and tests, fill in all reply slips and be on time for school

While we can never escape the stresses of life, one can change one’s approach to manage the stress better. And, remember to tell your children to enjoy school despite all the stresses. It is after all not stress that kills us – rather our reaction to it.

Adapted from:




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