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As parents, we may not have much choice over whether our children sit for exams, but we can help them deal with the stress they may feel with these simple but useful tips.

Your child may be feeling anxious if you observe physical signs, or behavioural, emotional or social signs of stress. Some examples of physical signs include headaches and/or stomach pains, a decrease in appetite, or poor sleep. In addition, watch out for behavioural, emotional and social signs of stress, like feelings of despair, anxiety or worry, irritability, a lack of motivation or focus, or if your child is feeling overwhelmed.

Related: 8 Quick Things To Do To De-Stress Right Now

General Tips

Start by checking that your child doesn’t have unrealistic expectations or is putting too much pressure on him or herself.

As parents, we need to remind ourselves that there are other ways to do well in life without passing exams. Children may experience unnecessary stress if parents have unrealistic expectations of academic performance[1].

Check your interactions with your child if he or she strives for high standards and is harshly critical of him or herself when the expected standards are not met. Such “maladaptive perfectionism” mindsets can be caused by parenting styles that are intrusive or controlling, according to a National University of Singapore study of primary school children in Singapore[2].

Provide support and reassurance for your child. Remind your child that you are there to help — whether to provide revision support, for food and breaks, to provide encouragement or to talk through the challenges he or she faces.

Encourage your child to have a healthy lifestyle in terms of dietary and physical habits, as these help improve mood and learning, and reduce anxiety and stress.

Exercise regularly — even simple exercises, exercises done in short intervals, or doing a sport will help to take their minds off school work, and improve their memory and thinking skills[3], [4].

A balanced diet — made up of regular, nutritious and balanced meals — can make a difference[5]. Food that is high in fat, sugar and caffeine can make your child moody, irritable and hyperactive.

Healthy lifestyle habits, like good nutrition, ensuring your child consistently gets enough fluids (water is the best), and that your child gets enough sleep, all help with studying in general. For instance, getting sufficient sleep helps with memory consolidation.

During the Revision Period

Time management is key to help your child get ready for exams. Get an early start — find out what your child needs to study, help your child with creating a revision plan by prioritising important subjects or topics, and start studying early.

Consider your child’s learning style. Provide a conducive place for your child to study, such as a quiet space at home. For a change of scenery, try studying at a different location like the local library. Alternatively, if your child thrives on studying with peers, encourage or make group studying possible.

Help your child develop some revision techniques. For instance, your child can study material by highlighting important points or making notes, or start revising easier topics first to build your child’s confidence before moving on to more challenging material.

Remember! The better prepared your child is, the less stress is felt. So have a plan and start early!

After the Exams


After each exam, listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings. Allow them to talk about how they did and encourage him or her not to focus just on the mistakes made or to compare their performance with that of their peers.

Plan a post-exam activity for your child to unwind. This would signify the completion of the exams and can be something your child looks forward to during the exam period.

Finally, reassure your child that you are proud of him or her and that your love will remain the same regardless of the exam outcome.

Remember! If your child feels he or she had performed poorly for the exam, reassure them that there are other opportunities. You can also discuss any problems faced and how to approach them the next time.

Exams may seem like a dreaded and daunting task for many children, but the knowledge that their parents are there as allies can make exam time much more bearable and can ease the stress.

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References

  1. Murayama, K., Pekrun, R., Suzuki, M., Marsh, H. W. & Lichtenfeld, S. (2015, Nov 23). Don’t Aim Too High for Your Kids: Parental Overaspiration Undermines Students’ Learning in Mathematics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(5), p 766-799.
    Retrieved December 2016 from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspp0000079.pdf

  2. Hong, R. Y., Lee, S. M., Chng, R. Y., Zhou, Y., Tsai, F. & Tan, S. H. (2016, Mar 30). Developmental Trajectories of Maladaptive Perfectionism in Middle Childhood. Journal of Personality, p 1-14.
    Retrieved December 2016 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jopy.12249/abstract

  3. Ploughman, M. (2008, Jul). Exercise is brain food: the effects of physical activity on cognitive function. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 11(3), p 236-240.
    Retrieved December 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18781504

  4. Gomez-Pinilla, F. & Hillman, C. (2013, Jan). The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiolody, 3(1), p 403-428.
    Retrieved December 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/

  5. Belot, M. & James, J. (2011, Feb 18). Healthy school meals and educational outcomes. Journal of Health Economics, 30, p 489-504.
    Retrieved December 2016 from http://faculty.smu.edu/millimet/classes/eco7377/papers/belot%20james%202011.pdf