It’s that time of year to enroll your kid in as many activities as possible, to optimize their learning. Or is it?
Like many parents, the return to school brings with it a mixture of emotions for me. Sadness for the end of the vacation season. Comfort and relief with the return to routine, but also dread, bracing for the hectic pace that this will bring as extracurricular activities get piled onto the family schedule.
And one other emotion that has become an increasing phenomenon – education anxiety. What is it?
Education anxiety is a parent’s experience of fear, panic, stress, and distress related to high expectations and uncertain outcomes of their children’s educational achievement1.
These days, parents face a multitude of choices and opportunities that make it more challenging to know how best to support their child and prepare them for success.
Should I be pulling my child from their current school to place them in a language immersion or accelerated learning program? If I don’t, will I be condemning them to a lifetime of mediocrity? If I do, will my child cope well with the transition and the potential loss of connection with existing peer friendships?
Despite all my best efforts and intentions, will my child rise to the challenges or will all my best efforts overwhelm them and compromise their internal motivation?
What is a parent to do?
The concept of parental anxiety has been particularly studied in China, a country with a highly competitive academic environment.
A study conducted in China1 found that higher levels of parents’ education anxiety predicted children’s academic burnout. The study also found that parent education anxiety contributed to children’s academic burnout because it first led to parental burnout, which was thought to negatively impact the parent-child relationship.
Basically, the thinking is that…
when parents feel enormous pressure to ensure their children’s academic (and thereby future) success and to avoid failing in their parental responsibilities, they can become overwhelmed.
Parents are particularly likely to be overwhelmed when the expectations for achievement are greater than the options and resources available to them to manageably support that achievement2.
So, what is a parent supposed to make of this study on parent education anxiety?
While all parents want to support their kids and provide them with the best available opportunities, societal expectations can outstrip the available resources of time, money, opportunities, and emotional health.
Parents can step back from the pressure and expectations that they feel and carefully consider whether opportunities are manageable and make sense for their family, including themselves and their child.
If a language immersion program and afterschool coding camp fit into family life and allow the family to remain calm and connected, awesome! If not, then it can help to remember that a loving home and a connected relationship with your child is more than enough.
If you’d like more support with your parenting concerns, reach out to our team at Brentwood Counselling Centre today. We’re here to help.
1. Wu K, Wang F, Wang W, Li Y. Parents’ Education Anxiety and Children’s Academic Burnout: The Role of Parental Burnout and Family Function. Front Psychol. 2022 Feb 4;12:764824. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.764824. PMID: 35185673; PMCID: PMC8855929.
2. Meeussen L., Van Laar C. (2018). Feeling pressure to be a perfect mother relates to parental burnout and career ambitions. Front. Psychol.9:2113. 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02113