The pressure on students and learners at year-end can be extreme, especially for matric learners. It’s seen as such an important milestone in their lives and the experience is stressful and demanding for kids, as well as their parents. The involvement and parent’s support is really important at this time so we’ve put together some tips on how you can alleviate the pressure that your children are under.
Feeling supported is a really great place for them to start. Knowing that you’re involved and care about what they’re trying to achieve is essential to the kind of self-motivation they require. Praising them when they are working hard goes a long way, and is much better than threatening them. Setting up a reward for hard work is a great way to help, think about fun activities that would make good rewards, such as a dinner out, or some time together watching sport or a series.
A great learning environment is essential, and this is where you can play an important role in ensuring they have a great space in which to study. It needs to be away from the hustle and bustle of the household and free from all distractions. Make sure it has good light, sufficient uncluttered space and a comfortable chair that won’t cause back or neck strain. Most children prefer to study with some background noise, so they don’t feel abandoned. Soft classical music works well, especially for an auditory learner, but avoid music with vocals, which may be distracting.
One of the best ways to ensure understanding and retention of information is to “teach” it. Make yourself available for them to explain the concepts they are studying to you and help by questioning and asking them to flesh out areas where they seem vague. It can be useful to study in groups for this exact reason, so allow them to have a study buddy or revision groups. Facilitating them at your home is a great way to encourage and support.
Time management is essential – throughout the year, but especially at exam time. You can help them set up a timetable but don’t do it for them, they must contribute in order to assume ownership. The Western Cape Education Department recommends 50-minute study periods followed by a 10-minute break, but some experts say shorter periods of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break can be even more effective. Make sure the schedule is well-rounded and still provides for extra murals and sport as well as some recreation, friend and family time.
Helping support their general health is very important, and something that Moms do best! Are they getting enough sleep? Ensuring a dark peaceful room, and encouraging them not to use their phones or devices before bed really helps.
A good diet is essential, remember, the brain uses up to 20% of the bodies energy. Glucose is the brain’s main energy source, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids also play a crucial role in optimal brain function. Studies show that students who eat breakfast have improved memory function and concentration when compared to those who skip breakfast. Have low GI carbohydrates available that will ensure the brain has a continuous supply of glucose. Try low GI toasted bread with mozzarella cheese or peanut butter, low GI cereals with low-fat milk, fruit salad and low-fat yoghurt or a fruit smoothie. Refuelling every 3 – 4 hours is crucial to keeping blood sugar and energy levels steady. Plan to have a healthy snack ready for study breaks. Whole wheat tuna sandwich, popcorn, fruit, low-fat yoghurt or whole wheat biscuits are good snacks to boost energy levels.
Sweets and drinks that contain lots of sugar will only boost energy levels for a short time and then leave them fatigued and drained. Rather have fresh fruit, dried fruits, fruit salad, low-fat yoghurt and nuts and raisins available instead of sweets and cold drinks.
It is extremely important to drink sufficient amounts of fluids during exam time to ensure the body is fully hydrated. Dehydration may lead to fatigue, headaches and a lack of concentration. Aim for at least 6 glasses of water per day. Other suitable fluids include rooibos tea, homemade ice teas, low-fat milk and diluted fruit juice. Too much caffeine may lead to restlessness, irritability, anxiety and stress, so limit coffee to two cups per day or go for decaffeinated coffee instead.
Above all – remember that children thrive when their parents support and encourage them to do well. So notice and praise their efforts. But don’t put too much pressure on them – they’re under enough stress as it is. Ultimately, the greatest task of a parent is to raise a happy and secure child. Children should know that their parents love and appreciate them, no matter whether or not they excel at something.
We wish you and your child all the best for their exams!