The countdown to the 2019
National Senior Certificate examinations has begun, and if you are the parent
of a matric learner you may well be thinking of the weeks up ahead with some
trepidation. Your child is about to go
through a rite of passage to leave the world of school behind, and how they
perform will have reverberating effects.
It’s a particular trial of their young life that won’t just test their
intellectual capabilities but their resilience and emotional intelligence too.
Jogini Packery, Counselling Psychologist and Head of Student Services at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology) shares 5 strategies for parents to support their child’s mental health and help them to be at their best over exam time.
your child’s emotional well-being a priority
Your child’s mental health matters. This
is a really important time to be talking about feelings and understanding how
they are affecting behaviours. Help your
child to identify the sources of stress and the thoughts that evoke fears and
anxieties. Help them to become aware of
their ways of dealing with negative feelings; and to find coping strategies
that help them bounce back quickly and effectively. Emphasise the importance of having a calm and
emotionally supportive home environment to all family members.
and enable proactive stress management
The stresses of Matric exam time are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you
can’t limit the impact. Some level of
stress can be a positive motivator for some kids, but what happens if the
stress gets too much for your child?
It’s important to talk about the stresses of this life-changing time and
have a plan for managing the impacts.
Help your child become aware when stress is rising. Watch for signs such
as not sleeping or eating well, needing distractions or isolating
themselves. Keep the channels of
communication open and the focus on the importance of mental health. Discuss ways that will help your child
proactively relieve stress such as taking some time out the study schedule to
connect with a friend.
and enable healthy living – A healthy body promotes a
healthy mind. Often the matric study
schedule demands some sacrifices, but this should not compromise the basics of
good health. Sufficient, restorative
sleep is vital and must be prioritised to optimise both emotional wellbeing and
intellectual capacity. Encourage regular
physical activity, it’s not just good for the body but the mind too. Exercise, even if it is 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.
sure expectations are realistic
Like stress, expectations also need to be managed around matric exam time. Parents instinctively have high hopes for
their children; so it’s up to us to ensure that our expectations of our matric
child are not contributing to their stress.
It’s also common for kids to have expectations of themselves that
heighten negative emotions and cause them stress. Conversations around their goals for the
matric exams and proper planning of their study schedule can highlight
expectations that might be creating debilitating pressures.
the emotional well-being you want for them
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 get on board with
their own stress management. Taking care
of your own mental health will empower you to have caring, compassionate
conversations and support them in facing the challenges of matric with courage