Motivating your child to study isn’t as simple as making sure that they sit down and study. These are three areas which, when better understood, can assist you to provide the support they need during study periods.
1. Navigating Exam Stress
Stress and anxiety can affect someone’s mental capacity, physical wellbeing and/or cause their behaviour to change. This means that it will affect the performance of someone who is trying to stay motivated to study. Stress and anxiety can present themselves in various ways, sometimes making it easy to overlook or incorrectly label them. Some people feel out of control and so try and control people or events around them. Others live out stress by avoiding what they need to do or exhibit defying behaviours which make no contextual sense.
10 Ways Anxiety Can Present
- Anger, agitation or flying off the handle for no reason.
- Challenging and uncharacteristic behaviours.
- Crying and difficulty regulating emotions.
- Intolerance of uncertainty.
- Unexplainable pains like stomachaches and headaches.
- Lack of focus and battling to pay attention.
- Avoidance of activities, events, family, or friends.
- Difficulty sleeping.
There are three ways that children respond to stress: fight, flight, or freeze. Each child differs. And each might also change how they respond given what’s stressing them out at a particular point in time. While a child’s responses may vary, there are several strategies which can assist with whatever stress response presents.
6 Strategies to Support a Stressed Child
- Encourage open communication about feelings.
- Help create a balanced and realistic study schedule.
- Teach relaxation techniques, eg: deep breathing or mindfulness.
- Promote regular physical activity and ensure adequate rest.
- Provide a balanced diet.
- Create a calm environment at home.
- Encourage creative outlets for self-expression.
- Remind them that their worth is beyond their exams.
- Tell them that while it’s important to try their best, an exam is just an exam and life is bigger than the exam.
- Assure them that no matter what their results are you will still love them and believe in them.
It’s also important to model healthy stress management yourself. Part of this means that if you or your child are battling to cope, despite implementing healthy support strategies, seeking the assistance of a professional is advisable.
2. How to Boost Study Motivation
There’s a thin line between putting pressure on a matric candidate and boosting their motivation. However, the subsequent result of each is very different. This is why it’s important to be aware of their impact so that you can change what you doing if need be.
The Impact of Pressure vs. Motivation
|Frequently anxious, stressed and/or fearful.||Positive approach and enthusiastic attitude.|
|Overly Focused on fear instead of striving for success.||Pursues realistic goals.|
|Constantly comparing themselves to others.||Exhibits personal growth and improvement.|
|Concerned with perfection and is extremely critical of themselves and their efforts.||Healthy expectations and a drive to improve themselves.|
|Physically unwell eg: head, stomach and muscle aches, changes in appetite and trouble sleeping.||Physically healthy and doesn’t have unexplainable health ailments.|
Motivation in action is therefore empowering a child so that they can be confident in their plan and follow it. Thus, a child that is motivated feels like they have autonomy in their situation, remains interested in the world around them and doesn’t avoid things. A big factor to motivate a child is to ensure that they feel continually supported and not alone in their study journey. This means asking them where they feel like you can assist them and regularly checking how they feeling. It could also mean taking the time to sit with them while they study.
How to Promote Motivation as a Parent
- Set Realistic Expectations.
- Focus on Effort.
- Celebrate Progress.
- Provide Support.
- Promote Balance.
- Encourage Intrinsic (self) motivation.
- Avoid comparisons.
3 Question to Ask Your Child
- Do you feel fully supported by me?
- Where else can I better support you on your journey?
- Are there things that I do that make you feel pressured?
Notable is that what pressures one child might motivate another, while ways to motivate your child could put pressure on someone else’s child. Thus, pausing and asking yourself how you think you’re doing and reflecting on what resulting behaviours you’re seeing in your child is important. It’s also why checking in and asking them how they’re experiencing your support is vital in motivating your child to study.
3. Maintaining Healthy Relationships During Stressful Times
Developmentally a teenager is undergoing mental, physical and emotional changes. This adds to the stress of focusing on studies and can put a strain on relationships around them. An important neurological fact to remember when interacting with an adolescent is that their high-level cognitive functioning (prefrontal cortex), part of their brain is still developing. Practically this means that skills that are necessary for planning, organising, and making good decisions are underdeveloped. As a teenager’s brain is still developing, they might not respond to stress as expected and are more susceptible to it. Furthermore, the way they process and the conclusions they reach about the world and themselves are also impacted.
The advantage of this developmental stage is that an adolescent’s brain is especially adaptable. Thereby creating many opportunities for learning and creativity as well as self-growth. To nurture a healthy relationship with a teenager requires minimal lecturing, preaching, or trying to control them. Rather what’s needed is to establish a safe space for honest and supportive dialogue. This is accomplished, in part, by listening with real patience and exhibiting genuine love and concern. It also means that a parent or caregiver needs to set an example through their own behaviours.
Supporting Parents and Teenagers
It’s often helpful during stressful times to have a professional help parents and teenagers in their journeying together. Are you interested in supporting and assisting parents or teenagers during exams and other stressful periods? If so, consider studying a course through the SACAP Applied Psychology Department. SACAP has multiple campuses for in-person learning as well as online and distance learning options. Contact a student advisor today to discover which study option suits your needs best.