Surviving your child’s exams

Here are some tips on what you can really do to help your child (and yourself) through the exams.

Interest, not interference.
Be there to listen when you are asked to do so, but don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty of exam preparation and panic.

You’re interfering when you’re putting together a revision timetable and checking up on your child’s study schedule.

That’s his/her responsibility, not yours. Don’t take it away from them: it’s a vote of no confidence in their abilities. Of course you want your child to do well, but you’re not the one writing the exam.

Stop nagging.
When people get nagged, it’s the human thing not to give the nagger what he or she wants.

If you nag, you’re setting yourself up for failure, and giving your child ammunition to get at you.

Show that you care, by all means, but constant nagging just isn’t a motivator. Back off.

Peace on the home front.
Exam time is very stressful for all candidates, and they don’t need any added stresses, such as family fights or financial dramas.

Try to keep things as calm as possible, and if you can, don’t involve them in any difficult family situations. Sometimes it is unavoidable, such as when a family member dies, but what is avoidable is you and your partner’s squabbles about the in-laws or the credit card bill. Keep those for after the exams.

Kids need to learn about consequences
. And they won’t do this if you are always there to protect them from the results of their decisions and actions. Of course your natural instinct is to protect, and to want the best for your child, but there comes a time when you have to accept that people make their own decisions.

Obviously this depends on the age of the child, but at 18 kids should know this. You don’t study for your exams, you get poor results, and you don’t get accepted for the course you applied for. That’s the real world. Preferably parents shouldn’t wait until the Matric exams before teaching their kids this.

Peace and quiet.
No one can concentrate in a noisy environment. Get your other kids to be considerate and to tone down the noise levels of their music, their TV programmes and their computer games.

This is also not the time for organising social occasions. If anything, take the rest of the family out so that it is easy for your child to study at home.

Get the logistics sorted
. Find out when the exams are, and sort out things such as transport beforehand. Organise a back-up if there is a crisis such as that the car won’t start. Coming late for a Matric maths exam is the stuff that nightmares are made of for decades to come.

Be prepared for the odd tantrum. If your child is writing Matric, this is probably the most stressful thing he/she has ever done. And when under stress, teenagers can be volatile.

Don’t be drawn into fights. Try and be calm and just walk away from outbursts. These issues can be dealt with after the exams. Getting through the exams is a priority here. Don’t allow yourself to be side-tracked.

Lots of healthy snacks.
Many teenagers eat when they’re stressed. At exam time especially, kids need healthy snacks, such as fruit, cheese, crackers, veggies and healthy drinks.

Fatty junk food, heaps of sweets and biscuits and sugar-laden fizzy drinks just won’t cut it. Brain power runs on balanced home-cooked meals, not heaps of burgers and chips.

Show that you trust your child.
Let them make the decisions about when and how they want to study and socialise and eat and sleep – within reason of course. No responsible parent will allow a child to go to a party the night before the exams.

Be there for them. If your child needs TLC after a bad exam experience, try and be available to listen, or to take them on an outing – or whatever is needed.

For those few weeks, set time aside for possible crisis management, if at all possible. But don’t hover – your child must know you are there for them, but shouldn’t feel irritated because you’re constantly looking over his/her shoulder.

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