Wendel Abel, Contributor
GETTING STRESS at a Tender age (GSAT), and that is exactly what GSAT is for many children. Many parents are stressed out by these exams and feel as if they are the ones sitting them. Naturally, parents want their children to do well, but in the process, some parents transmit too much anxiety and tension and may actually damage their children in the process.
Here are some tips to parents to manage GSAT:
1. Encourage your child to pace his or her preparation as the exam approaches. Do not encourage cramming the night before the exam.
2. Be supportive. It is important that you be as supportive as possible. Give your child reassurance. Remind them that you are there for them. Avoid the shouting and the putting down. Do not compare your child with other siblings or other children. Continue to praise and reward your child. They need lots of this at this time. Be positive. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.
3. Create the right atmosphere. Let us face it. Exams are stressful. Ensure everything is done to reduce stress at home. Reduce noise and distractions during study periods.
4. Encourage your child to stay relaxed. Ensure that they relax before bedtime. Studying all day can be very stressful on a child. After a stressful day, some children may have difficulty sleeping at nights as a result of anxiety and tension. Teach children basic skills such as deep breathing to relax and afford them some time for play and recreation.
5. There is more to studying. Ensure that your child has balanced nutritious meals. Avoid heavy foods that make them groggy and foods high in sugar content that will make them hyperactive. This is especially so on the day of exams.
6. Remain calm. It is natural as parents to feel anxious, but try to keep cool and calm. You do not want to transmit too much anxiety to your child at this time. Too much anxiety and tension can affect preparation and performance on an exam. The deep-breathing exercise and other techniques will work for you too.
7. Keep things in perspective. Everyone wants their child to excel, but remember that your child is not defined by these results. Not every child will get a scholarship. There are many children who have not done well in GSAT, but who have gone on to excel, and the reverse is true.
8. Take care on the day of exam. Stay calm. When you drop your child off at school, leave them to settle down. Do not linger around. Please do not be a helicopter mom or dad who descends on the school on the day of the exam. It can be very unsettling.
Dr Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and the head, Section of Psychiatry, Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, University of the West Indies.