Exams – one of the most dreaded words in the Singapore parent’s dictionary. Throw in “DSA”, “AL levels”, “math problem sums”, and I am sure we can almost hear a collective groan amongst parents and children across the island.
With the year-end exams drawing near yet again, it’s common for exam fever to hit our homes. Parents either do their dutiful obligation to support their children with tuition classes or spend extended time over weekends and weekday nights mulling through schoolwork together in solidarity with their child. Many parents do both – it is hard to assuage the niggling anxieties we may have for their future at the back of our minds.
Despite moves in recent years to deemphasize exams in Singapore by the removal of mid-year exams across levels, the pressure cooker lid does not seem to have fully lifted. The statistics are concerning. In a 2020 survey by Focus on the Family, 7 out of 10 children felt negatively about upcoming school exams, choosing words such as “angry”, “worried” or “sad”, and more than three in five felt worried.
Quite significantly, the study also found that parental support could be one factor to help mitigate the negative effects of test anxiety on students. Of the three in five children who were worried, 38.1% indicated that they do not receive consistent parental support. This begs the question: How do we know if our child is feeling stressed?
Tune in to some of their verbal cues that may be indicative of fear or feelings that they do not measure up.
Refrain from adding to an atmosphere of tension that may trigger more stress and tears.
Parents would also be wise to learn coping ways for our own stress and expectations to prevent them from spilling over. This is significant when we play such a pivotal role in ensuring their social and emotional well-being and especially so when we are our children’s closest support.
Here are some pointers:
1. Be aware of your child’s needs
The gift of our supportive presence can be second to none. This means not needing our children to perform to our expectations for them but appreciating our children for who they are and where they are at – giving them the needed encouragement and a safe space to learn, grow and make mistakes.
2. Pay attention to what they are saying and doing
During stressful periods, it is more important to listen to what they say and observe their non-verbal cues. When your child is upset, accept their feelings, whatever they are – anger, embarrassment, bravado. Avoid immediate judgment, or solutions, or even reassurance. It is important to observe without feeling a need to comment, nag, remind or get the last word in. In essence, we need to refrain from adding to an atmosphere of tension that may trigger more stress and tears. Pick up on conversations later when there has been time to process these thoughts and feelings.
3. Communicate in an open and supportive manner
Keep usual conversation topics open and not just zoom in on academics no matter how hard-pressed for time we are. “How was your day?”, “What are you looking forward to this weekend?”, “Is there anything we can help you with during this period?” are all important questions to balance perspectives so things don’t get overwhelming.
4. Fuel them up
Nutritious meals, healthy snacks, and adequate sleep can go a long way in smoothing through rough days. Carve out scheduled breaks to unwind and plan something enjoyable that your child enjoys so he or she can recharge and be rejuvenated.
Let your child know that they are loved and accepted regardless of their examination performance. Prepare cards, special treats and gifts for motivating and cheering him/her on for every effort. Help your child to plan a realistic revision timetable, which breaks the days and subjects down into manageable chunks. This will reduce their anxiety by increasing their sense of control and confidence.
6. Regulate ourselves, not just our children
We set the tone and atmosphere in our homes by what we say, our reactions and body language we display. Be watchful not to invoke undue pressure, comparisons or unfair expectations. As parents, we need to avoid being easily triggered and focus on calming our own mannerisms to keep stress levels low.
With these exam season tips, you can be a safe and consistent anchor for your child while navigating this stressful period together!
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