5 Ways Parents Can Nurture Mental Health During Exam Time - SACAP
Applied Psychology

5 Ways Parents Can Nurture Mental Health During Exam Time

Oct 21, 2021
5 Ways Parents Can Nurture Mental Health During Exam Time - SACAP

The final countdown to the National Senior Certificate (Matric) has begun. If you have a matric learner at home, you are probably thinking of the weeks ahead with some trepidation. These exams are an expected rite of passage, necessary to leave school behind and a step towards independence. However, they also determine a lot in relation to future dreams and which paths could be future options. Thus, this particular trial will test their intellectual capabilities as well as their resilience and emotional intelligence. This means that exam prep tips need to also include nurturing a matric’s mental health.

Common Mistakes Parents make

It’s tempting for parents to put forward that they know how it feels to go through matric exams. While many parents passed their matric exams, the reality is the context was quite different to what matrics face now. Drawing from your own experience can be very helpful, when it’s appropriate to your child’s situation. However, its good to remain mindful that the world views and experiences of your child are vastly different from yours. The current generation is matriculating amidst political, economic, social, health and environmental crises. They report a higher level of anxiety and depression. While they are more aware of mental health issues, they are also predisposed towards worry and feeling chronically unsafe. This means that they view their present and future possibilities very differently to past generations.

Another mistake many parents make is to take the view that if you study and work hard enough you will do okay. A child could have worked hard, be well prepared intellectually, but then get derailed and overwhelmed by their emotions and stress. Parents can help to decrease stress if they promote that healthy living requires balance. Especially when the scales need to be tipped towards prioritising studies.

Expectations can weigh heavily on a matric’s shoulders. They can also escalate anxiety levels which are counterproductive to doing one’s best. One of the ways that parents can assist their matric, is to help their child understand that self-appraisal and self-worth should not be viewed through the narrow lens of exam performance. Not all learners have career goals that are focused on academic achievements. Thus, matrics need to be reminded of their other strengths when it comes to expectations.

5 Exam Prep Tips for Parents of Matrics

Good Mental Health is key to succeeding. It’s a vital component in dealing with stress and being able to perform under pressure. Keeping open communication channels in the time leading up to, during exams and while waiting for results, is especially important.

These five strategies are designed to assist parents support the mental wellbeing of their children when they write exams.

1. Prioritise Emotional Wellbeing

An exam period is an important time to talk about feelings and how they affect behaviour as well as confidence.

As such, help your child to:

  • Identify the sources of stress and the thoughts that evoke fears and anxieties.
  • Become aware of their ways of dealing with negative feelings.
  • Find coping strategies that help them bounce back quickly and effectively.

Furthermore, emphasise the importance of having a calm and emotionally supportive home environment to all family members.

2. Practice Proactive Stress Management

Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For some it can be a positive motivator. However, stress can become overwhelming and debilitating. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your matric about the stresses linked to exams and life-changes, precipitated by matriculating.

Then discuss proactive ways to relieve stress. Help them to see that time set aside in their study schedule to do things they enjoy is wise. They may need assistance to see that they shouldn’t feel guilty about studying hard and then taking time to relax. Proactive stress release is an important way of decreasing anxiety and managing stress levels. Part of this process, for parents, is watching for signs that your child isn’t coping. For example: Watch for signs such as not sleeping or eating well, needing distractions or isolating themselves.

3. Enable Healthy Living

A healthy body promotes a healthy mind. Thus, monitor and make sure that your matric gets enough restorative sleep, exercises and eats properly. You can do this by having them schedule a bedtime and getting them to take consistent breaks to eat meals.  Encourage regular physical activity, it’s not just good for the body but the mind too. Exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block, will release endorphins that relieve stress and refresh the mind. Keep the house well-stocked with healthy eating options including healthy snacks.

4. Keep Expectations Realistic

It’s also common for kids to have expectations of themselves that heighten negative emotions and cause them stress. Additionally, most parents instinctively have high hopes for their children. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure that your expectations are not contributing unnecessarily to their stress levels. Thus, it’s important to have conversations around goals for matric exams and how they feel about them. Ensuring that their study timetable can realistically be implemented is also a good way of helping them to manage their own expectations.

5. Be an Example of Emotional Wellbeing

Yes, they are almost an adult, but you’re still their most important role model. Keeping yourself cool, calm and collected over this time is the most positive way that you can nurture their mental health. If you are demonstrating how well your stress can be managed, they are more likely to proactively manage their own. Therefore, remember to take care of your own mental health. Doing this will empower you to be able to have caring and compassionate conversations. As well as supporting them in facing the challenges of matric with courage and resilience.

Finding the Next Step

The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) offers courses in Applied Psychology and Counselling, Coaching, Management and Leadership as well as Social Work and Community Development. These courses combine an academically rigorous curriculum with relevant applied skills training. This enables graduates to be confident skilled practitioners. Courses are offered via on-campus classes and online live or flexi options. Contact SACAP advisors to make an appointment to discuss your options or enrol today!

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