A parent’s role in exam prep: the do’s and don’ts - Impaq Education
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A parent’s role in exam prep: the do’s and don’ts

5 min read   •   November 19, 2020
Lorian Phillips – Clinical Psychologist

I think we all agree that this year has been the most challenging yet for our children, especially when it comes to their education. It doesn’t matter what grade they are in; they have lost out on so much including socialising, sports and other fun activities.

Learning has also been a whole new experience for them from online classes to an entirely different study schedule. Some children have thrived with the homeschooling experience, but most have found it difficult and stressful (not to mention parents of young children who have been ready to tear their hair out juggling their own work with their children’s).

Furthermore, studies have shown that there has been a marked increase in learner’s anxiety and depression levels this year – it’s no surprise!

So when it comes to examination preparation, what is the best way to help our children succeed especially if our child is in matric with more pressure and expectation than ever? Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t nag

Ask any learner what they hate the most about their interaction with their parents during the examination period, and they will probably say the non-stop nagging of their parents to get on with their studies. They know what they have to do and are well aware of it – so the nagging just increases pressure and creates more anxiety. Our nagging is because as parents, we are feeling anxious and we feel better when we are nagging. So what is the solution to this unproductive cycle?

Firstly, we need to talk to our children and ask them the following questions:

  • How do you feel about the workload?
  • Which subjects do you find easy to understand?
  • Which subject do you find more challenging?

The questions should be asked in a curious way; your child should not feel like they are being interrogated. The message your child needs to hear is that you care about how they are dealing with their examination preparation.

Also read: Smart study hacks for the exams

Do help them reflect

Asking your child the questions listed above will also help them to reflect on things they may not have thought about and give them insight into their work preparation. Children like to feel that you are interested in them and what is on their mind. Asking them questions works much better than lecturing them. In this way, we can ask them what help and support we can offer and what would work for them, instead of us putting our needs and anxieties onto our children.

Do a reality check

Another great way of assessing where our children are at is by doing some reality testing with them. This is especially helpful for a child who is less conscientious or diligent. For example, as my client’s son, who is in Grade 10, said while doing no examination preparation at all: “School is a waste of time and one day I’m going to own my own business and have people work for me”.

Reality testing is vital to talk them through the steps needed to own this business one day, starting from school to university/tech/college, and so on. While they may feel that school is a waste of time, there is no choice in having to do it to get to the next rung on the ladder. An attitudinal change must take place.

Don’t wait for motivation

One of the other ways that I try to motivate my very demotivated child is by explaining that she is never going to feel like doing the work. So she has to stop waiting for that magical feeling to come as it just leads to further procrastination and ultimately, anxiety.

Instead, she needs to make the decision minute by minute and hour by hour that she is going to work, and that’s it. This manages to bring a halt to procrastination, faffing and all the other negative behaviours she indulges in around studying.

Do create a conducive study environment

Creating a conducive environment for our children to study is also essential. Some students prefer to learn in a quiet room, with a clear desk and all available stationery in sight. Others prefer to sit on the floor with music on, and their notes spread all around (most parent’s idea of chaos). Again, what is important is getting our child’s input as to what works best for them as opposed to dictating what we think is best.

Also read: Homeschooling: the importance of having a dedicated study space

Do find your child’s most effective study style

Asking our children if they know what they need to do for the information to sink in and for them to understand it also helps them to reflect on what is the most effective study style for them.

It has been shown that interactive learning is one of the best ways for students to absorb information. This can be achieved by teaching the work to others and pretending to teach it using a whiteboard. As parents, we can set quizzes and questions for our children as this interaction with the work is one of the best ways for them to test their knowledge and understanding.

At the end of the day, all they want is our compassion, support and understanding to make their examination preparation experiences as conducive to their learning as possible.