February 7th is Time to Talk Day and it’s all about talking about mental health and removing the stigma of mental illnesses.
Most people will suffer from a mental health problem at some time in their life – that means when you look around at your friends, many of them have, have had or will have, a mental illness. Some of them are probably already quite open about it; others may not be, and these are the ones I want to talk about.
I have friends who are quite vocal about suffering from depression and will often post statuses on Facebook like “What’s the point?” or “Having a bad day!” They get instant support. Their timeline gets filled with virtual hugs, and a couple of days later they post pictures of the flowers and gifts they’ve received, along with messages of thanks for visits. All this is brilliant and it’s good to see people rallying to support someone who needs it.
But what about the people who don’t post statuses like that? What about the ones who just quietly slip out of circulation? Maybe they are genuinely busy and will be back online in a couple of days or a couple of weeks – but maybe they are struggling and don’t know how to express it. Maybe they could do with a helping hand but they’re struggling so much that they don’t even have the energy to post, “Having a bad time!” on Facebook. Maybe they are not coping but don’t want to feel like a burden, so instead they hide away. Don’t let these friends be a case of out-of-sight out-of-mind and don’t assume that just because they haven’t asked for help it means they don’t need it.
Coincidentally, February 7th is also Send a Card to a Friend Day. Perhaps on this day you could take a few minutes to think about each of your friends and then send a card (or a text or an instant message or even make a phone call) to someone you haven’t heard from for a while. Tell them how much their friendship means to you and check they are ok. If they are suffering from depression or some other mental health issue it will help them to realise they are not alone. Even if they’re feeling fit and well and just decided to take a social media break it will brighten their day to hear from you and that can never be a bad thing.
Please don’t stop supporting the friends who ask for help. They obviously need it. But please also remember that it’s often the people who don’t ask for help who need it the most.
This is a technique I learned on a training course for 1:1 tutors, and it is designed to support pupils who find it difficult to come up with ideas and to structure their writing. An example in its most basic form would be using the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.
This boxes up into the simple story:
This could become:
This second story follows exactly the format of the first, but with enough details changed to make it a new story.
The source text can be carefully chosen to help with whatever the pupils are struggling with – eg a descriptive piece to help them use more adjectives, or to understand how to include similes and metaphors within a piece of writing.
This technique can be used as closely or loosely as needed to support the child, beginning by boxing up every few words, moving onto every sentence and finally every paragraph until the pupil is confident enough to structure a piece of writing unaided.
It’s difficult. You want to support your child with their homework, but you don’t want to do it for them. So, how much help should you give them and what’s the best way to go about it?
The first thing you should do is make sure that you child has somewhere comfortable to work. By this I mean that they should have enough space to spread their books out, and there should be enough light for them to see what they are doing. Also make sure that there are no distractions, such as from the television or other siblings. This may be all the help that they need.
If they are struggling with the task itself, read through it yourself to make sure you understand what they have to do. Then try breaking it down into a series of smaller tasks for them, but instead of giving them a list of steps to follow, give them a list of questions to answer.
Click here for ideas for helping with English or literacy homework
Click here for ideas for helping with maths homework.
If your child is struggling with their homework on a regular basis it may be worth talking to their class teacher to see if they are having general difficulties. Sometimes children can benefit from having a private tutor who can give them some one-to-one help to help them catch up with their class.
Finally: everyone likes to be praised so make sure you do this. If your child has found the homework particularly hard then it may be better to praise the amount of effort they have put into it rather than the end results.
As a private maths tutor, I often get asked by parents, “How can I support my child with their maths homework without doing it for them?”
In the short-term, the best thing you can do, is to read through it first to make sure you understand it yourself, and then break the problem down into a serious of questions like this:
What’s the first thing you need to work out?
Which operation (ie + – x or ÷) do you need to use?
If your child is unsure, you may need to ask supplementary questions:
Will the answer you get be bigger or smaller than the numbers used in the question?
Which two operations will give you a bigger/smaller number? (If necessary, try both of these to see which answer looks more sensible)
What’s the second thing you need to work out?
Which operation (ie + – x or ÷) do you need to use?
What’s the third thing you need to work out?
How can you use the answers from the first two steps to help you?
In this way, you are helping your child to see that there are lots of small steps to be taken before the final answer can be worked out, but they still need to do the work for themselves. Think about it like a building job – the scaffolders always come first so that the builders have a safe environment to work in, but they still have to carry out the building work themselves. My worksheets for breaking down word problems into simple steps is available for download from my free resources page.
In the long-term, make sure that your child is confident with everyday maths such as times tables, and number bonds as this will help them in the rest of their work.
If you live in north Birmingham (Great Barr, Hamstead, Kingstanding, Pheasey, Streetly, Sutton) and would like to book a private maths tutor for your child, you can contact me via my website.
Related post: How can I help my child with their English homework?
As a tutor, one of the questions I get asked most often by parents is, “How can I help my child with their homework?” They understand that they shouldn’t be doing the homework for their child, but are not sure how to go about supporting. My recommendation is to read through the homework yourself first, and then give your child a series of questions to answer.
For example if they have been asked to write a recount of an exciting day and they don’t know where to start, try breaking it down as follows.
Where did you go?
Who came with you?
What did you do in the morning?
What did you do in the afternoon?
What was the best bit of the day?
If their task is to write a review of their favourite book, you could break it down like this:
What is the book called and who wrote it?
Who is the main character?
What sort of book is it (adventure, mystery, horror, fairytale, etc)?
What’s the best thing that happens in the book?
Is the ending expected or a surprise?
Who else in your class would like this book?
Would you read another book by the same author?
In this way, you are giving them a framework to support their writing, but they are still having to think about how they will answer the questions for themselves, so the homework will still be their own work.
If you live in north Birmingham (Great Barr, Hamstead, Kingstanding, Pheasey, Streetly, Sutton) and want to book a private English tutor for your child, contact me via my website.
Related post: How can I help my child with their maths homework.