4 tips to help reduce your child's PSLE stress!
As the PSLE Exam fast approaches, students are getting super anxious about how they will perform. As parents, should you be giving them even more homework on top of their piling schoolwork or should you encouraging them to exercise and take some breaks from studying? How much stress is too much – and how can you prevent your own child from being overstressed?
It’s a familiar story: 4 weeks to prelims, followed by a short September holiday – then school reopens and that’s it – the final stretch before PSLE. Parents are going nuts. Schools are going nuts. The entire community of teachers and parents with 12-year-old kids are scrambling and creating a wave of ‘kiasu-ism’ for the upcoming PSLE examinations, which officially starts in late September. It’s officially PSLE stress time.
On top of regular lessons, existing homework and daily mandatory remedial classes, kids are made to complete piles of additional worksheets and other schools’ exam papers, as well as lots of private tuition.
“From my experience, inundating our young developing adolescents with too much work and stress often backfires and cause them to under-perform during the most important moments due to exam anxiety and stress,” says Mr. Tan, an experienced Economics home tutor who works with SmileTutor Tuition Agency.
While it is a fact that stress is an unavoidable part of life for students who aim to become high-achievers and can serve as a motivator, it can also be the cause of downfall if not managed well. Poorly managed stress negatively affects a child’s mental and emotional health, creates interpersonal and relationship issues, and negatively affects performance.
Indeed, when our kids are fighting for the last few precious marks to score their A or A*, so many factors can ultimately affect their exam score – careless mistakes, time management, memory lapses, concentration lapses, misreading a question, and the list goes on.
Therefore, it is imperative that as parents, you do your part to help your kids overcome the stress hurdle in order to maximize their chances of excelling in the upcoming PSLE examinations. But how can you do so?
1. Recognize if your child is overly stressed
The first thing you should do is to check your child’s stress levels. The thing about stress is that most individuals under stress don’t realize it until it begins to consume them. It is important to recognize stress before it gets out of control.
While different kids have different stress tolerance levels, it is not difficult to gauge your own child. If your child smiles often, appears happy and is energetic, it’s a good sign that they are in good mental state. However, if they look unhappy, is sleepy most of the time and has low energy, he or she may be suffering the adverse effects of too much exam stress.
By simply being more aware, you should start to notice if your child is appearing overly mentally saturated and exhausted. There are also other physical stress symptoms that can be observed such as headaches, constipation, tense muscles, insomnia, and frequent colds. These are telltale signs that you need to step in and help your child to reduce the tension.
2. Identify the cause of the exam stress
If your child is indeed showing signs of exam stress that is negatively affecting him or her, the first thing that you should do as a parent is to help him or her identify the cause of the stress in order to deal with it.
“There are four main causes of exam stress in young children; pressure from within, competition from peers, parental expectations, or lack of preparation and planning. Usually, it’s one of these four factors”, quips Dr. Eng, a private tutor who holds a PhD in Early Childhood Development in an interview with SmileTutor.
“One practical tip for parents is to sit down and have a good chat with your child. Explain to them that you have observed that they are overly stressed. Then, ask them about what they feel about their upcoming examinations and what their worries, concerns, and fears are. This way, you can identify the root cause of the pressure and deal with it directly.”
3. Make sure your child leads a balanced life
Now that you’ve pinpointed your child’s exam stress and have deal with the mental part of it, the next step will be to make sure that your child leads a balanced, healthy life. PSLE doesn’t mean he or she suddenly ceases to exist as a human being and suddenly becomes a study robot.
Having enough rest, a healthy diet, and adequate exercise to vital to keeping your child physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. This allows your child to fight off any impending stress and exam anxiety. The image below is the results of a brain study conducted at the University of Illinois; it clearly demonstrates the positive effects exercise can have on a kid’s brain activity.
Also, the benefits of having adequate sleep cannot be underestimated. A recent study in the journal Child Development showed that sacrificing sleep in order to study will actually backfire. “Reduced sleep … accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying,” said UCLA scientist Andrew Fuligni.
Most importantly, sleep is vital for the brain to gather new knowledge and assimilate it into long-term memory. I’m sure you want your kid to recall information on the exam day, so make sure he or she gets sufficient sleep after a long day of studying!
4. Pace your child
For a big exam like the PSLE, preparation is more like a marathon than a sprint. Students will be studying and revising as early as possible, months before the final examination. Proper pacing is essential. Right now, they can see the finish line… but it’s still somewhere in the distance.
If your child has been accelerating since the start of 3rd term (or worse, even earlier) without pausing to take any breaks, he or she might just run out of steam right before PSLE, at the worst possible time. It’s extremely unlikely to maintain a feverish study pace for three to five months straight.
Some kids are born to be racehorses with unlimited stamina, while most kids do need a breather and rest in order to complete the journey. You know your child best. Do your part to ensure that they pace themselves well so that they don’t burnout before the exams even started.
5. Lastly, don’t add to their pressure
Don’t be the cause of your child’s exam anxiety – plain and simple.
“How come never get A* for science?” “Why are you not as good as so-and-so? She scored 3 A*s for her PSLE” Such comments will only serve to add their the child’s pressure, which is already very high due to pressure from the school, his or her teachers as well as from peers.
One big problem we face in Singapore’s education system is that it literally preaches the notion that kids are defined almost entirely by their academic abilities which is based on that eventual T-score. While it is understandable that a 12-year-old might believe this at this stage of their life, it is troubling when many parents fall into the trap of the system and holds this belief, leading to them intentionally or unintentionally reinforcing the child’s wrong values of self-worth.
Another common phenomenon is when a lot of parents feel the anxiety themselves and then unintentionally transfers it to their child. Honestly, that’s no excuse. Parents need to be more self-aware and exercise self-control for the greater good of their children.
There’s already not much we can do about the pressure from schools and the education system, please do whatever it takes to remain level-headed and provide a caring, supportive environment at home, so that your kids can remain sane and grounded until PSLE day.