Exams are a stressful time for the entire family. Don’t let it get the better of your child.
Most parents look at PSLE as a life changing event that determines the future of their kids. All the hype that is built up around this ‘major’ exam inevitably causes frayed nerves and high stress levels (for both kids and parents).
This issue has been so prevalent that even PM Lee announced in his 2013 National Day Rally that there would be changes implemented to the PSLE scoring system in the future, to reduce “excessive competition to chase that last point.”
Education Minister Heng Swee Kit has gone on record to reassure parents by saying, “if you see it [PSLE] as one of the many checkpoints in our learning journey, then it’s much less stressful.”
Keeping in mind the nerve-racking exam climate that was developing in Singapore, the Ministry of Education also no longer releases the names of the top-scoring PSLE students.
What is exam stress?
Exam stress happens when a person is unable to cope with simple day to day activities due to excessive pressure or expectations, real or imagined.
It manifests in the form of constant fatigue, forgetfulness, lack of interest, irritability etc. There may even be difficulty in breathing, stomach cramps or headaches.
Here are 8 things that we as parents can do, to not stress out and more importantly, not pass on our fears to our kids.
Follow a plan
Support your child in organising the revision. Don’t avoid challenging topics and have a good balance of difficult and easy subjects in the timetable to keep the enthusiasm going.
Do away with last minute pressure by having a daily ‘to do’ list and weekly study goals. Celebrate every milestone to boost confidence.
It is common to find parents taking leave from work or quitting their jobs to see their child through the PSLE. They hover around their kids and with irrational demands and apprehensions, adding to the feeling of panic.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Carol Balhetchet calls it “cramping parenting.” She suggests parents monitor progress throughout the year instead of doing it when the exams are just around the corner.
Create a to-do list with your child. It’ll help him be organised and it’s always satisfying to strike off what they’ve accomplished!
Be supportive rather than pushy
Make sure you’re on the same page regarding revision expectations. Monitor their work. Be a facilitator, helping them with their difficulties and cheering them on when the going gets tough.
Stay in touch with the teachers to know what’s going on in school and find out how you can supplement the schools efforts at home.
Be there if your child needs you and empower your child by stepping back when you are not needed.
Having faith in your child’s ability is a major step towards conquering exam fears. This confidence rubs off on children as well as boosts their morale, in turn motivating them to put in their best effort.
Focus on the effort the child puts in. Our job as parents is to stay calm and let PSLE be just another milestone in our child’s learning journey.
Manage your expectations
Parental expectations lead to kids fearing that they will disappoint their parents if they do not perform well. Reassure them that you are there for them through thick and thin.
Parents must be conscious of their child’s abilities and set reasonable goals which are achievable. Catastrophic predictions of what will happen to your child if he doesn’t make it to the best secondary school do little except create panic and fear.
Are you helping your child beat exam stress? Read on to see what else you can do.
Abstain from making unfair comparisons
Comparing children to their siblings and friends is unfair to the child. Each child is an individual with his or her own capabilities and capacity.
Accept your child as he is, rather than falling prey to unhealthy competition. It is very demotivating for children to be told that they are not as good as the other person.
Anxiety and long study hours make a person lethargic and dull. Make sure your child has a well-balanced diet, is well-hydrated and gets enough sleep. This will boost energy, increase concentration and energise the body to fight stress.
Include time for leisure and create opportunities to relax and rejuvenate. Go on outings as a family.
A happy, relaxed child can focus on his revision and produce better work.
Monitor stress levels
Experts are of the opinion that stressing a little about exams may actually be a good thing as it makes us take our work seriously.
Put this anxiety to good use by encouraging children to follow study schedules and meet targets. But if your child is showing signs of something more than butterflies in the tummy, step in and help him deal with it.
Talk to your children about their fears and concerns. Tolerate outbursts and tears as they release bottled up emotions. If you are unable to handle the situation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. School counsellors are well-trained to deal with stressed-out parents and students, and can suggest strategies to cope with it.
There are also helplines you can call if you need help.*
PSLE is not the end
Keep things in perspective. Once you have helped your child put his best foot forward, sit back and let things take their course. Don’t look upon the PSLE as a ‘do or die’ situation.
Every year, nearly 50,000 children sit for their PSLE. Singapore has excellent schools and a well-planned education system. Rest assured that there will be plenty of opportunities in the future for late bloomers.
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800 221 4444
Tinkle Friend (Singapore Children’s Society): 1800 274 4788
Fei Yue Community Service: 67871125