Tell your kids not to stress - just do their best!

Source: Supplied
Source: Supplied

It’s that time of the year again and thousands upon thousands of learners and students right across South Africa are writing their final exams of 2018.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was happy to report that there were no major incidents reported on day one of the NSC exams and the first major paper, English, was rolled out smoothly.

757 894 learners sat and wrote English Home Language, First Additional Language and Second Additional Language, while 126 625 wrote Accounting paper 1. By the end of the exam period, which concludes on 28 November with Agricultural Management Practices and Design, a total of 147 National Senior Certificate (NSC) matric papers would have been written.

For those parents whose children are experiencing extreme anxiety, it is important to encourage them to relax and to reiterate that they need to take one day at a time, one exam at a time, and the rest will fall into place. This is when anxiety and panic attacks creep in – a rather normal response to stress, but for some, the anxiety becomes crushing and almost impossible to cope with.

Did you know that around 18% of the population in South Africa over the age of 18 are affected by a wide range of anxiety disorders such as general anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks?

You, as a parent, can do a lot to alleviate the situation if your child is anxious about writing his or her exams. 

So let’s discuss panic attacks; these are severe experiences of acute anxiety and their onset can be sudden and unexpected, like a bolt out of the blue! If you have never had a panic attack and suddenly succumb to this extremely stressful event, you could mistake this for thinking you’re having a heart attack. 

These are common symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Nausea.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Dizziness and light-headedness.
  • Trembling and shaking.
  • Sweaty palms.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Dry mouth.
  • A feeling of disconnection.

Panic attacks are usually a direct result and response to an over-abundance of adrenalin coursing through the bloodstream, together with other hormones.

The symptoms will settle down after a while and the individual’s body will return to normal.According to Psychology Today, “Panic disorder is characterised by uncontrollable, recurrent episodes of panic and fear that peak within minutes. Panic attacks are accompanied by physical manifestations, such as heart palpitations, sweating, and dizziness as well as the fear of dying or becoming insane. Worry about having an attack may lead to additional anxiety and avoidance behaviours or to other problems in functioning”. 

There are numerous ways to help your child keep calm if he or she is having one of these unpleasant episodes:

  • Get him or her to focus on the now – the present - and not to be concerned about tomorrow or yesterday.
  • Tell him or her that the panic attack is a temporary situation and that it will soon pass.
  • Incorporating controlled breathing exercises and relaxation techniques will help.
  • Get the child to think positive thoughts and about good things.

It is important to instil outstanding study methods from early on. Motivation is great, but putting unnecessary pressure on youngsters is overwhelming and not conducive to raising healthy, balanced adults.

Get your child to eat and sleep properly during exam times. Tell your kids to think before they ink, and above all to focus at all times. Reading through the paper carefully before diving in is a good idea.

Standard packages from South African medical aid schemes may not include cover for depression and anxiety. Remember to ask about gap cover and other products which may cover these. 

If you feel your child needs extra help, a visit to the school guidance counsellor is always a great starting place, or seek professional assistance. 


Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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