The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is a significant milestone in the academic journey of every Singaporean child. As the culmination of primary school education, it plays a crucial role in determining a child’s future educational paths. Understandably, the preparation for the PSLE can be a time filled with stress and anxiety for both students and parents.
In this article, we will explore effective strategies to assist kids in studying for the PSLE while also addressing the important aspect of managing stress and anxiety. Additionally, we are privileged to have Dr Annabelle Chow, an expert in child psychology, who will provide valuable insights by answering the questions asked in the webinar: “Never Too Early to Prepare for PSLE: A Guide for Parents in Preparing Children for the Exam.”
PSLE stress topics and related questions you’ll find this article:
- How to Promote Healthy Study Habits
- How to Manage Your Child’s Mental Health and Emotions
- Dealing with Y0ur Child’s Screen Dependency
- How to Navigate Friends and Bullying
How to Promote Healthy Study Habits
How should we prep our P6 kids mentally this year? I don’t want to press my kid too hard but I don’t want her to slack off as well.
Preparing a child for an important academic year can be challenging and there may be stressful moments along the way. As parents, we can help by creating a plan with your child. Visualise how much time and preparation is needed. Instil healthy study habits that will encourage your child to manage their time effectively. Include flexibility in their schedule such as breaks or playtime. Set realistic study techniques and explore what works best for your child.
My child has very high expectations on herself and is stressing herself out unnecessarily. How can I help her to learn to relax? We’re quite chill parents, so we don’t know why she is pushing herself so much.
Our child’s high expectations of themselves may arise from competition with peers, bullying, or relating their self-esteem and identity to how well they perform academically. Here are some ways that parents can help navigate through this:
- Communicate with your child: Healthy communication helps to build your child’s self-esteem and gives them the assurance that they are not alone in this.
- Encourage your child to share what is bothering them: Problem solve together by asking your child to describe the situation and how they are feeling and how they plan to achieve their goals, and what these goals mean to them.
- Actively listen: Reflect their emotions, validate, and normalise their feelings appropriately.
- Ask how they would like to be supported by you.
I feel that my boy has been studying hard to maintain his good marks, however, this year his preparation for PSLE is quite slack. It is as if he has submitted to his fate and any school is deemed to be okay for him as long as the school is near. Is this a display of stress and anxiety?
Your child may be experiencing stress or fatigue related to the upcoming PSLE exams. It is important to have a non-judgmental curious conversation with your child to understand his/her feelings towards the exams and the plans for secondary school. Some strategies that you could try would include:
- Offering emotional support: Let your child know that you are there to listen and support him/her. Encourage your child to express his/her feelings and concerns.
- Setting realistic goals together through SMART goals: Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound:
- (S): Specify the actions your child would take (4W, 1H approach)
- (M): Align values and goals that matter with your child
- (A): Consider goals that will improve the expected grades that your child set for themselves
- (R): Have realistically achievable goals (for example, studying for 2 hours on a subject that needs more attention)
- (T): Set a day or timeline to achieve goals
Encouraging healthy habits such as allocating time for play and physical activity, which can help relieve stress from exam preparation. Additionally, encourage your child to get restful sleep, aiming for 9-11 hours per night. Practising relaxation techniques together, such as breathing exercises, quick body scan, or noticing the five senses, can also be helpful.
How to tackle issue of non-interest in Chinese language?
These are some suggestions:
- Understand your child’s preferred learning method (i.e. tactile, visual, auditory, etc).
- Make it fun! Make use of interactive games or visuals to promote learning in an engaging way.
- Create stories or narrate stories to and with your child.
- Offer support by problem-solving challenges together. Find out more about your child’s struggle to comprehend the language, identify solutions and work towards it as a team.
- Do not punish for poor result, reward for values engaged, effort and interest!
My P5 seizes all opportunities to walk around when he still has to complete his schoolwork and homework. He can’t complete a Chinese weighted assessment, losing 12 marks upfront.
It can be challenging to manage a child’s behaviour and academic performance, especially when time seems to be a factor. To address this, have an open and gentle discussion with your child to explore any difficulties they are facing when trying to complete homework. Problem-solve those concerns together (e.g. Is it the inability to sit for a long time, is the work too difficult, or is the child disinterested in this particular subject?). Build the breaks in between tasks so the child knows when to expect him/her. Remember that every child is unique in the way he/she completes tasks, so it is important to find a way (sometimes non-traditional) to provide support!
Could you also share a timetable for studying for PSLE?
Here are some ways you can help your child focus on what they are doing and some tips on planning a timetable:
- Create a routine that is structured, but not rigid. Include activities like playtime, study time, and mealtimes in their structure. Determining a conducive time to schedule tasks might require additional time as every child is unique. It is also important to schedule play time and mealtimes before setting up school tasks.
- Print out the schedule and put it somewhere easily accessible to them. Make it interactive by getting them to cross off the completed task.
- Set a visible timer (a phone or anything that can do countdowns), and when the time is up, give them a 5–10-minute break. Having a break (and using up any excess energy) will allow your child to return to their task more refreshed.
- Find your child’s learning style that best resonates with them. There are four main learning styles: visual, audio, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic. Based on their styles, you may create personalised study sessions. For example, if your child is a visual learner, you can draw out diagrams to explain concepts.
- Create a dedicated area in your house to study. Ensure that the spot is not one that is associated with other activities (such as sleeping, eating, or playing), as that might make it harder to enforce as a study spot.
- Reduce distractions (i.e. No TV on in the background).
How do I start my kid’s preparation for PSLE exam from primary 1?
- Build on values – curiosity on learning, perseverance when things get hard, diligence when handling a task, etc.
- Reduce screen time to improve attention span and engagement in the world.
- Build on your relationship with your child so that your child feels safe to come to you when things get hard.
- Be aware of your own expectations and emotional reactions/ behaviours.
- Be mindful of your attitudes towards failure and success.
- Read widely and read together.
- Teach skills like emotion regulation, stress management, time management.
- PLAY. A child needs to play. Enjoy the play together. Teach our child that there’s a time to work hard and there’s a time to rest.
My P6 girl recently has changed from being passionate and keen with her studies to disliking her school and her form teacher. How do I encourage her again?
To help your child regain their motivation, it’s important to listen to her concerns and frustrations about school. As she shares, acknowledge her feelings, and work through her emotions together without judgment. Encouraging a growth mindset can also help. This can be done through discussion of any challenges with your child and viewing these challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. If your child is worried about falling below expected grades, focus on what can be learned from the process.
When it comes to setting up a reward system, will it become a habit that kids to expect to be rewarded every time they do well? When they move on to the working world in future, will they expect similar reward for their performance at work? Is this healthy?
It is important to find a balance between rewarding your child’s behaviour and creating an expectation of rewards for every good effort. Over-reliance on external rewards can diminish intrinsic motivation and lead to a decrease in engagement. To help manage that, instead of rewarding good grades (outcomes), it is recommended to encourage desired values, such as curiosity and perseverance (process).
With regards to expecting rewards when in the working world, it is important that parents cultivate the importance of intrinsic motivation and the contentment that arises from completing tasks well, rather than depending on external rewards. When used appropriately, healthy reward systems encourage effort, but should not create an unhealthy dependence on external rewards.
Can my child have one to two hours of nap time and six to eight hours of night rest?
Children over six years old should get all their sleep at night. If necessary, a maximum of 30 minutes for nap (and make sure they wake up by late afternoon) can tackle fatigue. It is important that primary school children get 9-11 hours of total sleep.
Will it be okay to have music on while studying or doing homework?
It really depends on the individual. Some work better and some get distracted. It will be helpful to check in with your child!
Dr Annabelle Chow advises parents to see a doctor should their child display these signs of depression and anxiety
How to Manage Your Child’s Mental Health and Emotions
How to handle my child’s stress ?
Here are some healthy ways to manage stress in your children:
- Model stress management – Have open conversations with your child and work through any emotions that arise in them. Model how you, as a parent would handle stress. For example, verbalising your feelings and talking them out with someone.
- Practise healthy coping – Do deep breathing exercises with your child or talk a walk together.
- Guide them through problem-solving – Encourage your child to identify their concerns and brainstorm ways to work around them.
How do I know if I need to bring my child to see a psychologist? Any red flags I need to take note of?
We can approach a psychologist when something is distressing and interfering significantly with our lives. Further, we may also seek psychological support when we want to work on personal growth, attain a deeper understanding of ourselves, or seek strategies to help manage our everyday stresses.
Children face various types of challenges as part of their development. It is important to pay attention to any behaviours that may indicate a need for concern. These could include but are not limited to:
- Uncontrollable meltdowns or anger
- Social isolation or withdrawal from family or friends
- Excessive fear or worry
- Significant changes to eating or sleeping habits
- Shares thoughts about self-harm or engages in self-harming behaviours
My child was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and underwent art therapy and spoke to a psychologist. After three years, my child’s condition seemed to be under control so we stopped going to therapy. However, this PSLE year my child’s anxiety seems to resurface. My child will have panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms during PSLE oral practices and tests. Should we go back to the psychologist or speak to the school counsellor first?
I think that it would be helpful to return to the psychologist that your child saw. He/she may be able to provide continuity of care to your child given that they have a history of your child’s needs. Speaking with your child’s school counsellor to discuss your concerns and work through previously taught coping strategies could also be helpful to manage your child’s symptoms of anxiety.
What if the parents have already acknowledged the kid’s feelings during a meltdown and gave some suggestions such as taking breaths, drinking water, and taking breaks, but the kid still continues with the meltdown and ignores the suggestions? What to do next?
We cannot stop a meltdown (not even in adults!). A meltdown requires time to settle. Our role is not to stop the meltdown but to create a safe place to hold the intense feelings before any discussion of problem-solving can happen.
Some ways to manage a meltdown could include:
- Giving space to your child and speaking to them calmly.
- Use short assuring phrases such as “It’s okay, I am here.”
- Once your child is calm, check which calming strategies work best for them. Practise these strategies with your child.
- Engage in physical touch (i.e. hugging), or any water-based activity (i.e. drinking water, going for a swim/ bath)
Kids at the age of puberty tend to show more emotion especially during this period. Any good suggestions to overcome this at the correct point
Children undergoing puberty may experience a myriad of emotions and physical changes in their bodies. As parents, it is important to offer a safe and supportive space for your child to express any challenges they may face. Some children may feel uncomfortable discussing changes in their face, body, and private areas, patiently explore these changes with them and give them space to adapt. Work together to find ways for your child to cope with strong emotions, such as encouraging journaling, grounding exercises (like noting their five senses), and breathing techniques. Most importantly, let your child know that they are not alone in this journey!
My P4 child has a blaming character. How do I help correct this behaviour?
- Guide your child through self-reflection and help him/her to understand the impact of blaming others.
- Problem-solve with your child on taking responsibility for his/her actions. Allow your child some space to brainstorm solutions to problems and how he/she can tackle challenges when they arise.
- Encourage and reward when you observe your child taking responsibility for his/her act.
- Model taking ownership of actions. When parents model accountability for their actions instead of blaming someone else, children will learn the importance of their share of responsibility.
My child has ADHD and is currently on medication. He is the just-pass kind and I find it hard to motivate him without losing my cool. I feel very stressed as he is taking PSLE this year. In addition, he is hooked on Roblox and we always have to negotiate studies and playing Roblox. What should I do?
ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects one’s attention and ability to control their behaviour. It is important to take a non-blame attitude.
First, we need to manage our own stress responses.
- Be aware of your own feelings and reactions
- Stay calm. If you cannot, tap out first.
- Model healthy stress management i.e. take a shower, drink some water, take a walk, breathing.
- Try to communicate boundaries, goals and plans.
- Problem solve together.
Dealing with Your Child’s Screen Dependency
How do I stop my child’s addiction to screens?
Here are some suggestions on how to manage your child’s screen time addiction:
- Discuss and reflect on your child’s use of screen devices
- Share your concerns over screen use and the risk of addiction.
- Give space for your child to reflect on these concerns
- Propose a balanced screen time plan with your child and find an agreement
- Explain the rationale behind monitoring your child’s screen time device
- Set clear rules and discuss logical consequences with your child
My kid’s pestering me to buy her a mobile phone due to peer pressure. She promise to do well for her PSLE if I can let her have it now. I am highly concerned because she is not disciplined enough. What is your suggestion?
It can be challenging to manage a child’s persistent request for a mobile phone and especially if you feel that your child may not be disciplined enough to handle the responsibility. However, it’s essential to find a balance between your child’s wants and well-being. Here are some suggestions on how to manage your child’s need for a mobile phone:
- Communicate with your child: Find out more about why your child feels the importance of owning a mobile phone. Through communication, acknowledge any emotions that arise. You may want to communicate your concerns with your child too.
- Discuss the responsibilities of owning a mobile phone: Discuss the appropriate use of technology, including the risk and benefits. Model to them on how to responsibly use their phone and take ownership of their devices.
- Set clear boundaries: If you decide to get your child a device, establish the ground rules. For example, setting an age-appropriate screentime usage limit and situations where phones are out-of-bounds i.e. meal times.
My child keeps bothering me about his mobile phone. When I don’t allocate phone time, he gets angry and locks himself in his room. Is it okay to scold him for this reason?
It would be helpful to understand your child’s motivation behind the use of his phone and why he seems very attached to it. Establish clear boundaries around mobile phone usage by setting specific screen time usage and being consistent with consequences. Acknowledging his feelings but setting boundaries on unsafe behaviours must be communicated.
When I took away my child’s mobile game, he got very frustrated.
It is an appropriate feeling to be frustrated when our belongings are taken away from us. Taking away a belonging that your child enjoys may warrant feelings of frustration. Here are some ways that can help you manage your child’s frustration:
- Be aware of your own feelings and reactions
- Stay calm. If you cannot, tap out first.
- When you are calm, communicate with your child. Validate their frustration and explain that it’s important for them to have a break from their screens.
- Suggest alternatives: Offer other forms of engaging activities (e.g., playing board games or introducing physical activities).
- Set boundaries: Explain the connection between behaviour and the consequence of their actions. For example, let your child know what’s an acceptable screen time duration. Discuss logical consequences with your child if rules are not followed.
Is reading story books considered as spending quality time?
Yes. The time spent with your child through reading reaps several benefits. Some of these benefits include recognising literacy skills, developing social and communication skills as you interact with your child, encouraging imagination and curiosity.
Dr Annabelle Chow encourages parents to adopt a more open mindset to help kids manage their stress and boost their confidence
How to Navigate Friends and Bullying
My child apparently says he is surrounded in the world’s worst environment due to bullying. What do I do?
Bullying comes in various forms such as taunting, teasing, and verbal or physical bullying. As parents, we want to support and empower our child who is bullied. Here’s how to tackle situations like these:
– Listen attentively to what your child is saying and summarise what you heard. Let your child know that you’re there for them and make your child feel heard.
– Reflect on how they feel by making sense of their emotions. For example: “You are scared that they will hurt you”. Remind them that is not their fault if they feel hurt or afraid.
– Discuss the next steps to be taken (e.g., how to get help from adults). Ask them what they would like to do and how would they want your support in this.
– Work with your child’s school or teachers about the bullying. and come up with an action plan. Follow up with the teachers on the resolution and include your child in the discussion.
How to help my kid navigate peer comparisons, especially amongst peers who always say negative words?
Constant hearing of negative words or phrases from peers may impact a child’s self-esteem. It is important to navigate through peer comparisons and here’s how:
- Encourage positive self-talk: Highlight the strengths of your child. Even if there were failures, walk through the learning process with him/her.
- Discuss values that are important to you and him: Focus on values (how) vs outcomes (what).
- Promote healthy competition: While having some kind of competition among peers may boost motivation, encourage your child to do so in a healthy manner. For example, teaching your child the importance of teamwork and motivate one another to strive for his/her best.
About the Expert:
Dr Annabelle Chow is a Clinical Psychologist at Annabelle Kids, a multidisciplinary allied health practice. She is registered with the Singapore Register of Psychologists (SRP) and accredited by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). She is also a Fellow of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists, and is a Clinical Supervisor registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and with the Singapore Register of Psychologists.