It is almost time for revision across most schools in South Africa. The pandemic has undoubtedly affected the academic calendar, and this has put pressure on the timeframe to complete the syllabus.
Today we unpack how you can effectively prepare your child for final exams amidst the pandemic pressure with Educational Psychologist Pinky Maringa, Educator Aluwani Ramathikhithi, and Easy Waze Tutor and Director, Pholoso Matsafu.
Easing The Mental Pressure
Catching up on school work that hasn’t been covered, as well as making time for revision can add a lot of mental pressure for learners. This pressure may also be exacerbated by pandemic fatigue. Maringa points out that the prospect of being assessed on work done over months and the limited duration of the assessment of around two to three hours is daunting and thus stressful on children.
As a result, children tend to struggle to cope with the increased workload and tight schedule. Maringa advises parents to consider the following, to help ease mental pressure:
- Create a suitable study environment for your child.
- Provide assurance and emotional support to help your child overcome fear. Positive feedback and encouragement will boost their confidence.
- Provide adequate and nutritious food to keep them healthy and alert (remember the gut-mind connection)
- Encourage your child to take some time to exercise or take brief walks.
- Monitor your child’s sleeping patterns and ensure that they get adequate rest.
According to Ramathikhithi, schools are under pressure, but are working hard to assist learners
“Most schools have extended their hours to accommodate the time they have lost, especially for Grade 12 learners whose classes run up until 16:00. Some schools are also offering lessons on Saturdays. The winter vacation lessons were a good boost as well. The department also offers support lessons through radio and television, which are very helpful”, she explains.
She further states that schools must be doing more extensive work to help alleviate the pressure on learners as she believes this would boost their ability and that learners do need to be continuously supported by encouraging them to continue to do their best during this time.
Watch Out For these Bad Habits
Matsafu highlights that although strategies may be put in place to ensure that learners are well prepared, the following bad habits negatively interfere with their studying:
- Cramming. This becomes a hindrance, especially when attempting to pull an all-nighter. The little time students have to study not only causes anxiety, but a lack of sleep will lead to poor concentration during the exam because the brain can only retain the general aspects of the information. This results in the student poorly articulating themselves in long format questions. Cramming is the easiest way for the student to forget their work.
- Poor time management. It is important to create a weekly schedule to balance the time devoted to studying such as rest, physical activities, and social life. This alleviates any stress and the overlooking of important information in the exam scope. The best way to do this is by creating a study timetable.
- Procrastination – Learners tend to underestimate the time they need to accomplish tasks and defer studying for later. This will not work for those who struggle to cope under pressure. Help your child understand the consequences of doing things at the last minute. Help them to break studying up into intervals.
Ramathikhiti has also noted that children spend more time occupied with other things instead of their school work as a result of not being in the schooling environment full-time and this then affects their motivation when they have to put in the work. As they ease into the exam season, start initiating more reading and down time to absorb more school work.
Dealing With Anxiety During Exams
Maringa shares that parents have an essential role in helping children deal with anxiety. She shares the following ways to help your child should they be going through anxiety during the exam period:
- Look out for signs that may indicate anxiety through their behaviour. Some common signs can be found here.
- Monitor the external information your child consumes via media etc. Avoid detailed communication centered around the pandemic, such as the death rates. It induces anxiety, we need to manage their anxiety during this time.
- Seek professional help or enroll them to peer support groups.
- Be positive around them so that they absorb the positivity from you.
- Stay aware of your child’s needs and be available at all times to address any concerns they may have. Children thrive when they receive what they need. Give lots of hugs and reassurance.
Supporting Your Child During Exam Season
Maringa shares that parents need to equip themselves with knowledge of their children’s school work to fully support them during this important period.
She shares the following tips on how parents can be actively involved in the exam period:
- Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This will help to assist in getting extra help for your child or even tutors where possible.
- Familiarise yourself with your child’s examination schedule. Do this to avoid giving them a lot of household chores and even monitoring that they aren’t procrastinating.
- Read through your child’s school content. This will help you better explain the content to your child if there is something they don’t understand. Break it down to their language or provide other alternatives. If you don’t understand it, it helps you to be able to know what the gaps are in your child’s learning journey. Raise these concerns with their teacher or encourage your child to flag them and ask their teacher for assistance.
- Limit digital distractions. Familiarise yourself with their devices so you can discern what is appropriate and what’s not in what they consume. During exam season, keep digital consumption at a low and remove anything that may be overly distraction. You know your child and their ability to resist the temptation should you not be looming over them.
Recommended Studying Methods
As a tutor, Matsafu has witnessed the following study routines that produce excellent results, and recommends them for learners:
- Avoid watching TV during your study breaks, it makes the brain relax and completely tap out of study mode – try reading a book or going outside for a walk or some activity.
- Phone time should be kept at a minimum of 10-20 minutes during a study break because you become too distracted by what is happening on your phone.
- Break down your workload into sections, give each section about an hour, take 10-minute breaks in between, depending on the size of the section, short sections can be covered in 30/45 minutes.
- Always study past papers for revision. They’re the most helpful way to remember your work and identify your problem areas.
Remember that as a parent, one of your roles is to continuously affirm your child. Tell them that they are intelligent and deserve to be successful in their academics because it goes a long way.
Watch this video of Olwethu Leshabane speaking out some affirmations with her son, Malik here.
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