Kids these days are more stressed than ever before. And as parents, this can make us feel extremely helpless, but unfortunately this attitude doesn’t solve the problem either. The truth is that while we may think we play an ever-diminishing role in our children’s lives, we have a huge opportunity to be their anchor, support and guide – especially during stressful times like exams. Rather than shy away from what’s happening, we as parents need to be proactive and lead them through these periods as best we can.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up some pearls of wisdom from experienced parents on how to keep your kids focused and positive as they head into exam time.
- Don’t over parent
Helicopter parents step back! Because while you can be ultra-supportive and show them a few techniques, you cannot actually sit your children’s exams for them. Mom of four Laura Kim Le-Roux says, “Teach them how to study, help them if they ask, but don’t nag them or put additional pressure on them.” Be a support in the background for when they need you while studying, rather than hovering over their shoulder as they turn each page.
- Food is the answer
Eating nutritious and wholesome meals can go a long way to ensuring your kids’ brains are operating to their best abilities. But it’s more than that: good food, cooked with love, is a way of showing them that you care, and can also be used a treat to break up studying time. Writer and mum Kit Heathcock says that they all have a family supper together each evening to break up the study hours. Then, after exams finish, she fetches the kids early so they can eat a healthy lunch together at home, and the kids can relax and have some down time before studying starts once again.
- Rest days are important
It’s important to encourage your kids to take healthy breaks from studying. Writer and mum Cath Jenkin says they schedule regular “off” days. “We went to the beach on Saturday, instead of studying all weekend. Sunday was our study day.” Mother and stepmother Gaelyn Cokayne agrees, saying they schedule an hour a day for something totally not school/studying/tech related. “Sport, baking, something creative. It’s a lovely distraction as well as good for their poor brains to shut off and rest!”
- Supplements can help destress
Experiencing stress affects our cortisol levels, and this can lead to your immune system being low, leading to illness – so you want to prevent this as much as possible. Cath says that zinc and 5-HTP are good health supplements to try, while mom Geraldine Harris says they take Omegas and Vitamin B. If you need to see a GP to get scripts for any supplements, remember that flexiFED plans from Fedhealth offer you access to a MediVault, which allows you funds for day-to-day medical expenses that you only start paying back once you start using it.
- Prioritise sleep
Up all night cramming for an exam never works, we all know this. Prioritise a good night’s sleep before studying, and more importantly: ban cellphones from their rooms. The last thing you need is for them to be having overstimulating conversations into the early hours of the morning, when their brains should be resting and preparing.
- Provide them with the bigger picture
Above all, try and explain the context of these exams to your children, like mum Tracy Engelbrecht, whose eldest son is 25 years old and whose younger daughter is currently studying for Matric. “Pick your hills to die on,” she says. “There may be some subjects where you’re never going to do great, and just passing is enough. Accept that.” Explain to them that none of this is going to matter in a year – or five, or 10.
If your children are still quite young, remind them that no one ever looks at Grade 4 or Grade 5 results. “Those grades are used to gently ease children into the idea of exams, giving them space to make mistakes,” says mother of three Tania Roux. Above all, a calm parent equals a calm child, and they will take their lead from you. Know this, and you’ll be well on your way to preparing them for exams as best as you can.