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Here are five ways you can help your child beat exam stress and come out tops:

1. Set the right mood

This is especially important if you’re a parent approaching your child’s first ever set of exams. “When parents stress about looming exams, this can impact their children negatively,” says Sandra Jackson, a social worker at FAMSA (Families South Africa). “Keeping the period before exams relaxed and as stress-free as possible will ensure that children do not view exam time in a negative light in the years to come.”

2. Create perspective amidst exam stress

“Ensure that your children pursue other activities and continue to have breaks to focus on friends, hobbies, sports and other activities,” advises Jackson. “They need to feel that exams are not all-consuming.”

Looking at the bigger picture, there’s a common misconception that getting As is everything – but this can be overwhelming for a child. “This is something that we see a lot in Grade 6 and 7 learners,” Amy Haworth, a school counsellor at Squirrels Play Counselling, shares. “Their parents want them to get into the best high schools, so are pushing them over the limits to get unrealistic results.”

The truth is, high schools look at other areas of success outside of academics too, such as sport, culture, community service and leadership too.

3. Prep and plan – then stick to it

Before your child has even sat down with books and notes, get the basics right with structure. “At least two weeks before the time, schedule regular study periods in the afternoons or evenings,” advises Jackson.

Haworth suggests creating balance when planning study sessions: “Studying in smaller 30-minute sessions over a few days has proven to be more effective than pulling all-nighters.”

Then start thinking about preparing a dedicated study space, preferably away from noise and with good natural light. As kids start studying, make sure they get enough of the essentials. “Make sure your child gets enough sleep and is getting the necessary nutrition through a balanced diet,” advises Jackson. Haworth agrees, adding that staying hydrated is also important. “Ensure their brains are fully ready and nourished for the task at hand each day.”

“Make sure your child gets enough sleep and is getting the necessary nutrition through a balanced diet,” advises Sandra Jackson, a social worker at FAMSA.

4. Cut out unnecessary noise

When your child starts sitting the exams, encourage them to be extra organised, which will cut out any potential stress from poor planning.

“Know your exam schedule,” Haworth suggests parents remind their kids. “Often children come fully prepared for an exam, but realise they were actually meant to write a different subject that day.”

Help them make a habit of packing the right stationery and other equipment for the day, so they don’t miss anything important. “Rushing and last-minute tasks can cause unnecessary tension on exam day,” cautions Haworth.

5. Stay connected emotionally

Whether it’s your primary schooler’s first exam week or your matric learner’s final stretch, it’s important to keep emotionally connected to your child during this pressure-filled time.

“Ask your child how they are feeling about the exams, and do not dismiss their feelings,” advises Jackson. This connection makes them feel that they are not alone in their quest to do their best and deliver favourable results, she adds. Deep breaths, squeezing a stress ball, thinking positive thoughts and stretching during breaks are some techniques you can teach them.

When the stress is particularly bad, suggest they remove themselves from the study space. “They can find a space away from their study area – it could be in their room or outside – and use this to breathe deeply, stretch, close their eyes and think about all the things they can touch, smell and feel in that moment. Perhaps think about 10 things that make them happy,” suggests Haworth.

They can make a habit of it, as much as they do of hitting the books. “Sit in this relaxation area for 10 minutes a day with no distractions (that includes cell phones).”

Understandably, parents would like their kids to open up to them if they feel the stress or anxiety is becoming too much. Create a welcoming, non-judgmental space where children feel comfortable enough to open up to you.

“Often just talking about the emotions they are experiencing, is helpful,” says Jackson. Reminding them that they have other resources available to them is important too. “Speak to your class teacher, a subject teacher or anyone you feel you can relate to at school, they may be able to help you. Many schools have a school counsellor as well that can give you ways of coping with stress and anxiety,” suggests Haworth.

If your child feels they cannot speak to you, a teacher or a friend, an appointment can be made with a counsellor at FAMSA, says Jackson.

If you’re battling to juggle daily tasks or your child requires support with their school work, be sure to check out Personal Assistant and Dial-A-Teacher – two incredible benefits that we’ve made available to Sanlam Reality members.



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