Watch your stress levels, matric parents urged
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.”