Coping with the anxiety of matric exams

Matric exams anxiety may be overwhelming. Picture: iStock

Here are some helpful tips for parents on helping their teens through stress.

Like adults, children also experience stress when presented with difficult situations that warrant such reactions. An exam is one such activity that can place teens under immense pressure.

In 14 school days, the class of 2020 will be commencing their combined exam timetable. For them, it is make-or-break as they write their final exams that will determine whether or not they proceed to higher institutions or progress as planned next year.

Also Read: Lockdown Level 1: What matrics need to know about the 2020 and 2021 academic years

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says “stress is a natural bodily response to an external stimulus that evokes a sense of threat to us. Our bodies become alert, our muscles tense, our breathing becomes more rapid, and our heart rate increases.”

The stress that pupils experience may be good stress, as it encourages them to be better prepared and do more work. The stress is negative if it leads to exam anxiety.

Professional clinical counsellor Kailey Hockridge argues that the expectation for pupils to move forward academically adds pressure on matriculants. Writing for Psychology Today, Hockridge says it is important for parents to normalise speaking about anxieties in the home. If children harbour their doubts and fears, it may be detrimental to their performance and health.

Speak about the anxieties

Anxiety is a usual reaction to a stressful situation, and being able to talk about it with someone that can put you at ease is a big step in managing it. Children need to feel comfortable talking to their parents with an expectation of acknowledgment.

According to Hockridge, it is important for parents to not discredit their feelings by saying things such as “don’t worry about it, you will be fine”. Instead, mom and dad must affirm that their feelings are valid and normal. If they know that their peers might also be experiencing the same, they might not guilt themselves into more stress and anxiety for experiencing those emotions in the first place.

Also Read: Here is how you can help your child through a panic attack through mindfulness

Stress management strategies

Sadag advises pupils to apply some tactics that will put their minds and bodies at ease. These include;

  • Exercise
  • Multivitamins
  • Listening to music
  • Eating breakfast

This will set them up for success and will be in a better position to study and learn productively.

Preparation is key

Sadag encourages pupils to “have a structured study schedule that doesn’t leave subjects or sections rushed at the end”. Using their timetable, a pupil can create a structure that allocates enough attention as per the schedule.

Taking breaks in between the study sessions is also important. If they are struggling with a subject, they need to make sure they have names readily available of people they can ask for help from.

Seek professional help

Some cases might be extreme, and students might continue struggling even after talking to their parents or even implementing stress management strategies. Parents can seek out help from the school’s counsellor or see a psychologist if they can afford to.

Pupils can also contact a counsellor for free from Sadag by sending a WhatsApp to 076-882-2775. They can also live chat with a counsellor by visiting the Sadag website.

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