Exam season is here! My son is in grade four, so this is the first year that I have had to deal with the pressure and anxiety that comes with him writing exams. The end of the year is undoubtedly the most stressful time for the kids, but as parents we’re not immune from it – stress often builds up into negative energy that consumes the entire household. Going into the final exams, I find myself worried about so many things – am I giving him enough support? Is our study schedule rigorous enough? How do I contain my anxiety so that it doesn’t affect his self-esteem and performance?
In a recent study, that was conducted by I heart PR, in the UK, found that 25% of parents said their own mental health had been affected by the pressure of their children’s exams. Even going further to state that this stress had even affected their sleeping habits, whilst two out of five parents said they had blamed themselves for not knowing how to help their kids with revision. So how do we channel our anxiety and better support our children?
Here are a few tips to assist you:
1. Identify your child’s best way to learn:
Every child learns differently, so try to identify ways to optimise how your child learns. There are typically four learning styles:
• Drawing (visual learner)
This type of learner prefers photographs, graphs, illustrations, bright colours.
You can help them by getting bright stationary items, printing graphs they will remember and using mind maps.
• Reading and writing
This type of learner absorbs information best from writing it down or reading it.
You can help them by encouraging them to write out notes or stories and read different formats of the study material, i.e. textbook, newspaper article, website, etc.
• Hearing the information (auditory learner)
This type of learner learns best from the things they can hear, such as songs, reading aloud and recordings.
You can help them by reading to them aloud, giving verbal instructions and having discussions about the study material.
• Physically doing something (Kinaesthetic learner)
This type of leaner likes to interact with their learning content by doing.
You can help them by encourage them to use their body and move around, as well as letting them create objects based on their learning content.
Some children may prefer a combination of these styles, my son is similar to me, in that he prefers to write his notes out and draw pictures.
Once you have figured out their preferred style to process new information, try to adopt exciting new strategies around that to keep it exciting.
2. Create a great learning environment
A comfortable learning space can lead to productive learning and revision. Ensure your child has what they need to thrive. Whether it is a quiet space or a comfortable chair coupled with the necessary stationery – the right environment can make all the difference.
Younger siblings can be a distraction, like in our household, so get everyone on board to actively support the student who is preparing for exams. My nanny and I work together to ensure that the little one is kept busy in a separate part of the house when my son is studying.
3. Use digital learning platforms:
Our current biggest advantage is that we’re living in the digital age and our kids have embraced this era. In preparation for exams, we have been exploring Vodacom’s e-School platform which is an education portal, for grades R to 12, in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. This tool is packed with curriculum-aligned educational content and is a backed by The Department of Basic Education. This learning portal is easy to access. All you need to do to get registered is visit Vodacom e-school from your cellphone, tablet or laptop. You then get to enjoy unlimited access to a wide range of educational content.
Access is free to all Vodacom customers – users from other networks will be charged for the data though. During all those stressful exam periods, our children can now complete lessons from their school syllabus, which will help them improve their marks. You are able to track their progress and see how they are performing ‘compared’ to other students in a fun, easy and interactive way.
4. Take regular breaks and spread out revision
It’s difficult for anyone to concentrate on learning for long periods of time, so ensure your child is taking short breaks between revision sessions. Encourage them to go outside for fresh air or do something psychical like going for a walk or riding a bicycle.
5. Be supportive
Studying is not always fun or easy, so praise your children when they are working hard. Encourage rather than threaten, as kids don’t need more stress during exam pressure. If they do get stressed, try to respond to their emotions by listening, reassuring them or showing affection. Once they have calmed down, you can deal with practical solutions, such as setting up a revision timetable, or getting the necessary help they might need.
6. Ensure they’re sleeping sufficiently and eating healthy
Sleep is important to not only give children mental and physical rest, but to consolidate what’s been learnt during the day. Ensure their room is dark, as light interferes with melatonin (the hormone needed for sleep) production. The blue light emitted by tablets and phones can also be disruptive to sleep, so I always try to ensure that the hour before bed is screen-free.
Diet and nutrition also play a big role during periods of added stress. Ensure that your child eats a proper breakfast before an exam. If they are feeling nervous and don’t want to eat, pack fruit and water for them to have in the event that their appetite picks up.
Some meal and snack options include:
Cashews, eggs, salmon, apples, berries, bananas and spinach. These are considered as ‘brain foods’. Please also remember to pack them a bottle of water.
7. Be ready:
Get all the information pertaining to exams upfront – ensure that you have the exam timetable, venue information and necessary stationary in advance. Your child will experience a great amount of stress if they realise they don’t have the right stuff on the day of the exam.
Support them to study and prepare in advance so they will be confident with their study material several days before the exam. During the June exams, I got one of my sons exam dates mixed up – in my own head – but thankfully he had been studying ahead so he was ready.
The actual exam will probably only be 2-3 hours, meaning that the day will be shorter than usual. Make the necessary transport arrangements for them after each one. Most schools accommodate the children of working moms by supervising revision sessions.
Parents that have been through exams, what are your coping mechanisms and tips? I would love to hear from you!
Modern Zulu Mom