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The Schedule

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Now that everyone’s settled into the new school year, one of the most common stresses in every family with children is planning THE schedule. If your child is in school in HK with the expectations for being the most ‘all rounded’ student, the basic school schedule, the school sports or clubs schedule, the extra-curricular interests schedule and of the course, the extra-curricular tutorial schedule - it’s near impossible to keep track of it all without a colour coded excel spreadsheet with numerous pages depending on the number of children and other adults that need to be involved to run the logistics of it all.

 

Before rolling up your sleeves and jumping into sorting this complicated project, it may be really helpful to slow down and ask a few less commonly asked questions to help weigh things before committing to them, potentially saving everyone a lot of grief.

 

1. What is the balance of ‘power’ between you and your child(ren)? In other words, how much room is there to talk about different perspectives that exist regarding what to put into or take out of the schedule? Some parents feel ‘helpless’ to give input into a child’s schedule - giving into every request for different classes or maybe on the other end, not having any say in adding classes they feel are beneficial. Other parents feel they are at the helm as the ones paying for the classes, and since money is power, there is a belief that children should be willing and of course, grateful for all the support being offered without question. In the first case, children may feel a lot of freedom to be heard and have a lot of ‘power’ to have the final say in terms of what is or is not included in their life schedules, however, they may be losing out on the valuable insight and direction that can come from the parents. In the second case, children may receive the support to strengthen the areas of perceived ‘need’ to achieve more academically or in other areas, but they may feel unheard and eventually embittered towards their parents who in turn feel their children are being ungrateful, thus leading to a breakdown in their relationship. By taking some time to reflect on this issue of power and the patterns of communication that exist between you and your child, you may find that making adjustments to the expectations and expressions of power and control can bring a healthier balance to the working out of the final outcome. When there is a balance of power, children get what they need and want while parents are perceived to be a wise and understanding support, as well as a source to be appreciated.

 

2. Is it a need or a want? You may think that this is not such an uncommon question to ask and perhaps parents ask their children this quite often. It is uncommon however, for parents to ask THEMSELVES this question. Sometimes after a lunch with other families, parents suddenly feel enormous pressure to ‘keep up with the Wongs’ and Chans’. After hearing about the myriad of activities the other children are signed up for that will create the next Beethoven, Einstein or Hussein Bolt, it can be very hard not to suddenly go into overdrive as a parent to make sure your child isn’t somehow being left behind in the dust. This is when it’s important to take a step back and ask yourselves and your child(ren), what is truly important in the short, medium and long term. Aligning your choices to match your values and priorities will help to focus everyone’s efforts and streamline the list of activities being selected. More importantly, there is a valuable process being invested in that encourages communication, discussion and formation of actions plans based on shared values and understandings of both the individuals and the collective as a family. Everyone learns to work within the real limitations of time, energy and resources. Teens especially stand to gain invaluable insight into their own internal worlds as well as the real boundaries that exist in the external/real world.

 

3. What does this mean for the family and relationships? This is often overlooked in our performance driven world. As with all choices, there is opportunity cost. Is something good taking the place of something best? Has achievement overshadowed any other areas of life that may be of equal importance? The wellbeing of the family unit and the relationships that exist within it are factors that are being proved, even by science, as being foundational to a person’s healthy development in all areas: physical, emotional, mental and academic. When family is a place of encouragement, support and safety, children and young people can flourish and be launched into life with a firm foundation that will serve them well into adult life.

 

So, the excel spreadsheet is a great tool to keep track of what’s happening in our complicated HK lives but let’s make sure we are the masters, rather than the slaves, of that schedule.

Cora Chan

Cora is Parent Advisor and Family Coach at Aegis Advisors.

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