4 Ways to Help You and Your Kids Deal with Exam Stress

Friday, 20.04.2018

Photo Credit: The Calabash 

Exams always seem to be around the corner for our kids, don’t they? Exams are an important method that allows our kids to gauge their academic progress, and to find out problem areas that they can focus on in their studies, but exams and grades shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all that defines their self-worth.

In addition to the stress of competition for grades that our kids go through, we parents are also unconsciously affected by it – the pressure gets to us in different ways than our kids, as we will have expectations for their grades that either go fulfilled or unfulfilled.

These very expectations could impact our kids negatively, as their sense of self (how they see themselves, their identity) is still developing – they may relate ‘having good grades’ to ‘being a good son/daughter’. We all tend to put pressure on our kids to perform well academically, and sometimes even without realising it.


How Does Stress Affect Us?


Physical Effects of Stress

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Stomach pains
  • Problems with sleeping

Mental Effects of Stress

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Easier to get irritated or angry
  • Depression

Common Effects of Stress on Behaviour

  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less


What’s important for us as parents to remember is to support our kids when they’re revising, so here are some ways for us to do just that!


  1. Monitor Stress Levels

A bit of stress is a good thing, as it actually pushes us further and allows us to seriously focus. But too much stress is a recipe for disaster! A good amount of stress can encourage our kids to hit their targets but overloading them will cause the opposite effect when they’re studying for exams.


Always try to keep communicating with your kid – they may not realise that they’re suffering from the effects of stress. Talk to them kindly, don’t push the blame for anything onto them, and ask them if they have any fears that they’d like to bring up.

Photo Credit: South China Morning Post

Your kids might end up throwing a tantrum or crying, but always keep your emotions in check and don’t blow up at them. It’s important to listen more than to talk – you need to be a pillar of confidence that your kids can believe in and trust. If your kids aren’t willing to open up about their worries, encourage them to write them down instead.

However, we’re only human and sometimes it can really be overwhelming, so it’s perfectly alright to seek help from professionals like school counsellors.


  1. Manage Your Expectations

As mentioned before, your expectations of your kids will put undue stress on both them and you. You have to let them know, reassure them, that you will not be disappointed in them and that you will always love them regardless of their results.

Photo Credit: Nakita

You should best know the limits of your kid’s abilities, where their strengths lie, and what their interests are in. It’s alright to push their limits as growth is caused by adversity, but as mentioned in the previous point, keep things balanced and don’t go overboard with extra homework and unrealistic expectations.

If your kid’s English grade isn’t the best out there, then set a reasonable goal for them to head towards and make sure you focus on the effort that they put into getting to that goal. Have faith in them – your belief in them will cause their morale to rise up.

Suppose your kid gets a 77 instead of an 80 for their Math test, don’t pick on the mistakes that they’ve made and say that they’re being careless and could’ve done better.

Exams, be it PSLE or O levels, are just checkpoints in the lives of our kids. Many other opportunities in life will present themselves before our kids. Doing good or bad in those exams does not define the abilities or potential of our children, and it definitely doesn’t define the amount of love that we hold for them.


  1. Come Up with a Plan

Work together with your kids to come up with a schedule for their exam revision – have a mixture of both easy and difficult topics for a good balance. Having them complete easier topics will be a great boost to their morale, and it’ll keep their studying momentum going.

Avoid rushing things at the last minute, but instead come up with mid-term plans that move towards to a set of goals. Take note of any positive change in their grades – give them some encouragement and maybe celebrate it if it’s a really big milestone!

Photo Credit: Stdy More Chinese

Within this schedule, try to ensure that it’s not just purely studying. Fit a daily physical activity that they enjoy doing inside their schedule, maybe cycling or going for a jog in the evening.

It’s important to be flexible when coming up with a schedule – our kids all have different personalities and abilities that we need to take note of! Some kids are more responsible than others, and may require less supervision, while some may require more. Adjust their study plans accordingly, and always keep your kids in the discussion when forming or changing the plans!


  1. Don’t Compare Your Kids to Others

Comparing is something that we all need to cut down on – it does nothing but make us envious and bitter if the other person has what we want, or if we have more than them, we’re inadvertently looking down on them.

Photo Credit: Get Life Byte

Comparing our kids to their siblings or friends is unfair for them, as each child has their own strengths and weaknesses. We might assume that putting them down and comparing them to someone with better grades would motivate them, but it’s instead demotivating for them to be told that they’re not as good as the other person.

Worst of all is if they pick up that bad habit of comparing themselves to others – their self-confidence will take a big hit, and they’ll carry this mindset of ‘not being good enough’ with them into the future.

At the end of the day, what our kids want from us is simply our approval and recognition. They want us to be proud of them, and to be happy for what they’re able to achieve. Learn to be kinder to both yourselves and your kids, and you’ll eventually be happier and less stressed out.



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