Living the Life of a PSLE Parent

Examination time is stressful not just for students, but for parents too.

Just last weekend, I found my son sitting quietly at his table with a frown on his face. While speaking to him, I discovered that the looming PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) was the reason for his distress. He was worried that there would be insufficient time to finish all he needed to do.

Indeed, he is just one of the many students all over Singapore gearing up in preparation for their year-end examinations, and it is common to hear about the stress they grapple with during this season. However, something not usually discussed is the fact that ordinary parents, like my spouse and I, are feeling the heat too. How can parents handle the stress effectively, so that they can equip their children to do likewise?

Keeping our emotions in check

First and foremost, here are some questions you can think about. Ask yourself, have I set conditions when it comes to loving my children? Does “Get these results or do this my way and then I will love you?” sound familiar? Such messages always undermine motivation. We may not say it outright, but do we subconsciously send such messages through our tone of voice or non-verbal signals?

Also, do we look to our children for “completion”, or do we try to live out our dreams through them? Such attitudes can put unnecessary pressure on us and more importantly, result in unfair expectations of our children.

Ultimately, children need to know they are loved with a non-judgmental love – we love them not because they are performing, but we love them in spite of anything and everything they may or may not do. I explained to my son that it is important he tries his best, but his worth will never be determined by how well he does for his examinations. He needed to know I would still love and support him, regardless of his results.

Breaking free from stress

Helping our children do their best academically does not necessarily entail harsh discipline and constant nagging. Learning and studying can be made fun too. In fact, fun is serious business for a happy family. Parents can, and should, create a positive atmosphere even during examination time. Going for a walk with our kids, playing a game of Happy Family, and even crazy ideas like camping in the living room can help them de-stress and relax. When our children are happy, they are more likely to be better learners, and you should enjoy an easier time teaching them. 

Undoubtedly, stress will rear its ugly head at times, and the key is helping our children handle it well. It is important to remember that our job as parents is to help them deal with these stresses and emotions effectively rather than shelter them or dismiss these realities. We should keep a look out for symptoms of stress like headaches, stomachaches, depression and loss of appetite. Recognize that negative emotions can be opportunities for intimacy and teaching, where we can encourage open and candid conversation and let them feel understood.    

As parents, we naturally want the best for our children. Equipping our children to do well in their examinations is important, but so is helping them become happy and effective learners not just in the school setting, but in life. 

© 2015 Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.

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