Watch your stress lev­els, ma­tric par­ents urged

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - LUKE FOLB

MA­TRIC ex­ams are in full swing, with thou­sands of pupils around the prov­ince writ­ing pa­pers.

Ask any ma­tric hope­ful and they’ll agree – the exam pe­riod is ex­tremely stress­ful.

There is a great deal of pres­sure on pupils and their par­ents’ stress is of­ten a fac­tor, too.

Dr Jaclyn Lot­ter, a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist and head of aca­demic pro­grammes at The South African Col­lege of Ap­plied Psy­chol­ogy, said chil­dren were “highly re­ac­tive to their par­ents emo­tions”.

“If we go into a state of high anx­i­ety be­cause of the ex­ams, they will feed off that stress, which is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to the out­comes we want.

“We also need to self-re­flect, ad­just our per­spec­tives and fo­cus on en­gag­ing in healthy ac­tiv­i­ties and in­ter­ven­tions that sup­port our bal­ance,” she said.

Lot­ter said par­ents had lit­tle con­trol over their child’s per­for­mance as they “can­not write the ex­ams for them” and they needed to un­der­stand their role was to sup­port their chil­dren.

“The key to that is tak­ing an in­ter­est, be­ing avail­able to them, keep­ing the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion al­ways open and be­ing en­cour­ag­ing, rather than crit­i­cal. It is re­ally im­por­tant to give our chil­dren the space and re­spon­si­bil­ity to set their own goals for their ma­tric ex­ams, to achieve th­ese for them­selves and their fu­ture.”

Cather­ine Pereira, lec­turer with the

De­part­ment of Di­etet­ics and Nu­tri­tion in the Com­mu­nity and Health Sci­ence fac­ulty at the Univer­sity of Western Cape, said eat­ing reg­u­larly dur­ing the exam pe­riod was im­por­tant to keep up the nec­es­sary en­ergy lev­els.

“When you’re study­ing you might skip meals and this re­sults in tired­ness. It’s im­por­tant for matrics to plan their meals and eat three times a day with healthy snacks in be­tween,” she said.

“Brain foods that have omega three in them, like tinned fish or nuts and seeds, are good to eat, as well as some­thing like av­o­cado on toast. Eat­ing car­rots and toma­toes is also good as they have the most amount vi­ta­mins in them.”

She said drink­ing too much caf­feine could cause a spike in en­ergy but would in­ter­fere with sleep.

Pereira said some peo­ple eat less when they were stressed, while oth­ers eat more, of­ten fill­ing them­selves with junk food.

While it might be tempt­ing to make the house­hold more con­ducive to study­ing, Lot­ter warned dras­tic changes to a child’s lifestyle prob­a­bly would not be help­ful.

“It might be nec­es­sary to make some ad­just­ments to en­sure the home is as con­ducive as pos­si­ble to study­ing. We might want to find ways to keep noisy younger sib­lings at bay or min­imise the time our ma­tric­u­lant is ex­pected to spend on house­hold chores and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, so they can keep their fo­cus on study­ing and well-be­ing.”

She said study­ing non­stop did not nec­es­sar­ily mean bet­ter re­sults and suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise, sleep and healthy eat­ing were nec­es­sary, as well as time for re­lax­ing and so­cial­is­ing.

Gil­lian Bush, a ma­tric par­ent, said she main­tained the gen­eral house rules and al­lowed her daugh­ter some down­time dur­ing the exam pe­riod.

“Know­ing my daugh­ter has worked steadily through­out year, we al­lowed her naps dur­ing the day when she needed them. I also sent her for a head, neck and shoul­der mas­sage a week be­fore she started writ­ing.”

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