Parents, Don’t Make These 6 Exam Prep Mistakes

From kids leaving their revision to the last minute, to parents putting too much pressure on their children to do well, here are six no-nos to avoid during exam season.

By Melissa Wong        29 April 2024

Exam season can be a stressful time for both parents and kids, but it need not be this way. Most of the time, the stress comes from things we can control. All parents want their children to excel academically, and all children strive to do well, but along the way, both parents and kids may make mistakes that only add to their anxiety, making exam season harder and more stressful than it needs to be. 

While you’re helping your children get through their mid-year assessments, here are six mistakes to avoid. 

1. Putting too much pressure on your kids

Putting too much pressure on your kids

Parents put pressure on their children in a number of ways, says psychotherapist Carol Goh at Emotional Wellness Counselling – for instance, reminding their kids of all the financial and personal sacrifices that’ve been made for them, chiding them whenever they take a break from studying, wearing them out by sending them to more tuition classes than they can handle, and making them feel bad about not being strong enough in certain subjects. 

While some pressure can be motivating, too much can have a negative impact on children. 

“They may constantly worry about not doing well; worry can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks,” Carol explains. 

“They may also feel inadequate and have low self-confidence and low self-esteem as a result; and they may feel tired all the time from having to juggle so many tuition classes and not having enough breaks. Additionally, they may fear disappointing their parents.”

Instead, Carol suggests understanding your kids’ strengths and weaknesses and encouraging them to focus on the subjects they’re good in. Remind them that what counts is the effort they put in rather than the results; send them motivating text messages or notes; and give them plenty of assurance and unconditional love. You may also wish to help them set goals if this motivates them. 

2. Comparing your children to other kids

Comparing your children to other kids

Carol says to avoid comparing your children to their siblings, classmates and other children who might be doing better than them academically. This may fuel unhealthy competition between them and the other children, and your kids may even feel embittered towards their siblings, friends and classmates.  

Worse, it may erode your kids’ self-esteem and self-confidence. 

“Children naturally seek approval and validation from their parents, striving to make them proud,” says Fion Liew, Lead Counsellor and Founder of Awaken Counselling Centre. 

“Constant comparisons can instil in your kids a belief that their worth is contingent upon academic success alone. This can lead to an unhealthy reliance on external validation and a skewed sense of self-worth. Ultimately, this may contribute to increased vulnerability to mental health issues, when your children feel unable to meet your expectations.

“Parents need to recognise the harmful impact of comparisons, and instead focus on fostering their kids’ unique strengths and talents and by emphasising individual growth and celebrating achievements, regardless of how they compare to others.”

3. Not allowing your kids regular breaks

Not allowing your kids regular breaks

You want your children to spend as much time on their revisions as possible. However, it’s also important to realise the importance of breaks. Kids need time away from their books, when they can play with their friends or relax on their own.

“You can support your children by encouraging them to allocate time for activities that promote relaxation and stress relief,” says Fion. 

“If screen time helps them unwind, that can be a valuable option, but it’s important to strike a balance and incorporate a variety of activities into their relaxation routine. This might include exercise, playing board games, enjoying a favourite treat like ice-cream, or engaging in creative hobbies.”

Give your kids that extra edge with these nourishing foods that will help boost their energy and mental stamina.

4. Letting your kids leave their revision till the last minute

Not checking in with your children

Procrastination isn’t healthy, but Carol says that some kids may leave studying till the eleventh hour for various reasons. For example, they may have a fear of failure or not doing well enough, their fears may cause a mental block, affecting their ability to plan or study, or they may just feel overwhelmed by the nature or amount of work that needs to be done. 

What can you do?

Carol recommends helping them create a step-by-step plan for each subject, being with them to help see their study plan through, offering them a reward for achieving various goals along the way, and taking note of any pressure your kids may be feeling. If they’re finding it hard to focus, can’t eat or sleep, or feel anxious, Carol advises approaching a counsellor for help. 

5. Not checking in with your children

Not checking in with your children

As hectic as exam season can get, don’t forget to spend quality time with your kids. By spending time with them, you get to see how they’re coping with their studies. They will also appreciate being able to share their worries and concerns with you. 

Carol suggests taking time out for meals together, participating in their hobbies with them, bringing them out for a relaxing walk, and so on. 

6. Stressing out over your kids’ academic performance

Stressing out over your kids’ academic performance

Stress can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing as well as that of your kids. It can also affect your children’s self-esteem and overall sense of worth, and disrupt the family dynamic, says Fion. 

“Kids feel the pressure to excel academically as well as meet their parents’ expectations and secure their own future. This obsession that our society has with academic achievement only intensifies this pressure, leading children to tie their self-worth to their exam performance. It’s little wonder, then, that kids often feel overwhelmed during exam season.

“Parents, too, feel the weight of expectations because they want their kids to succeed. Consequently, they may employ various strategies to boost their child’s grades, such as enrolling them in extra tuition or imposing strict study schedules. However, when these efforts do not align with their child’s needs, it can lead to added stress and strain within the family.”

To counter the stress, Fion says that mindset matters. This means adopting the right perspective, and seeing exams as assessments of competency in a subject rather than as reflections of your children’s inherent worth. 

You can also support your children by affirming their individual strengths and qualities, and emphasising personal growth over exam grades. If your kids aren’t doing well, it’s important to see the setbacks as part of their learning journey, and understand that they need to learn and grow from their mistakes.  

“Furthermore, you need to recognise that societal attitudes towards success are evolving,” Fion points out. 

“Academic achievement is just one aspect of a child’s identity, and failure to excel in exams does not diminish your kids’ value as individuals. By acknowledging this, you can help alleviate psychological stress and foster a healthier approach to exams.”

Enhance your children’ s academic performance and let them have fun at the same time with these enrichment classes at SAFRA Choa Chu Kang!

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