EducationGrowing up

Help Your Child Beat Exam Stress

Here are some pertinent questions you need to ask yourself as the exam season rolls around:

    • Are your children burning out under exam stress?
    • Are you inducing fear of failure in your kids?
    • Are you losing sleep worrying about tests and school work

As parents you are naturally concerned about your child’s future. The pressure is strong, especially here where generations of students have been instilled with the value of education and the importance of performing well in their examinations.

Your fears are perfectly normal but it’s important to remember this: While you may be willing to invest time, energy, and money to ensure your child does well in school, be mindful that your effort and expectations do not push junior over the edge.

In a sobering case that highlights the dangers of excessive pressure, a boy recently ran away from home for three days, apparently overwhelmed by the upcoming Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

Thankfully he has been reunited with his family, but the incident is a reminder that parents can play a role in reducing their children’s stress.

Sending the right message

Try and be conscious of the messages you send your children. Some parents unconsciously stress out their children with their behaviour, like frowning at their examination results, or making comparisons with other children.

Being an effective messenger starts with having the right attitude, says Jim Taylor of Psychology Today. He espouses the four essential qualities—patience, repetition, persistence and perseverance—that keep you going when the going gets tough.

Explore different ways of motivating your child, for example by letting him know that he can rely on you for support.

Instead of saying: “I know reading can be hard, but you just have to do this.”

Try saying this: “Sometimes reading a book can be hard because we don’t know all the words. Let’s read it together. Show me the words you don’t understand, and I’ll tell you what they mean.”

Striking a balance

In the pursuit of gold stars and achievements in school, other aspects of your child’s well being may be neglected.

Strike a balance between pressuring your child to study and allowing him breaks to pursue his hobbies.

A little bit of pressure can spur your child on to study, but it can turn into stress.

It’s important to remind him that exam stress is only a small part of his life and it won’t last forever (even though it might not feel like it at the time!).

What can you do to reduce stress?

Focus on the Family Singapore recommends these simple tips:

  • Make a plan. Draw up a realistic revision schedule together with your children and stick to it.
  • Have a break. A little entertainment can refresh the mind. A short walk, or even a bit of playtime helps recharge their mind and body.
  • Eat smart. A balanced diet is vital for your child’s health, and stay healthy during the examinations. Include ‘brain foods’ like eggs, nuts, and fish to give the right nutrients for brain performance.
  • Learn in “style”. Not all children learn alike. Some children need a distraction-free environment, while others study best with music in the background. Identify his personal learning style and provide that kind of environment as much as you can.
  • Recognise effort. Praise your child’s effort and perseverance, rather than focusing on results. Listen to him, give support and avoid comparing him to other kids.
  • Love unconditionally. Be reassuring and positive. Remind your kid that your love is unconditional and does not depend on academic performance.
  • Put things in perspective. Make sure they know that failing isn’t the end of the world, and that if things don’t go well they may be able to take the exam again.

Symptoms of Exam Stress Include:

  • Feeling disconnected from friends and activities
  • Feeling extra cranky and depressed
  • Sleeping poorly and struggling to get out of bed
  • Difficulty getting motivated to start work
  • Having clammy hands or feeling butterflies in the stomach
  • Feeling confused or having the mind going blank during the tests
    *Tips published with permission from Focus on the Family, Singapore.
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