By Nico Strydom
Exam time can be a very stressful period, not only for the learners, but also for their parents.
“Stress during exam time is usually not only the result of the work that has to be learnt and the physical writing of the exam, but also the uncertainties about the outcome thereof and the possible consequences,” says Megan Hosking, a social worker and clinical psychiatrist at Akeso psychiatric hospitals.
Hosking draws attention to the fact that every year suicides of learners during or after the exams are reported. “It might possibly be fear of failure or undesirable results. It is heart-breaking to think that young people feel so pressured that they cannot envisage any future for themselves.”
Learners must be aware that their wellbeing is the most important aspect on which to focus, says Hosking.
According to Hosking, preparation is essential to beat exam stress as it helps to alleviate the pressure. However, she also emphasises that it is just as important to make time to rest and relax in order to maintain a healthier perspective.
Final preparation before the exam is also essential, says Hosking. “By working through previous exam papers you can identify gaps and this helps to calm your nerves. Make sure you know in which venue you will be writing, at what time and what will be expected of you.”
However, exam time is not only stressful for learners. According to Hosking, it can be just as stressful for parents to see how their children stress about the exam. “General signs of tension and anxiety include: irritability, sleeping problems, change in eating habits and complaints about headache, tummy ache and other physical pains.”
Hosking maintains that it worth the effort to have an open discussion with your child about handling mechanisms when they feel stressed or anxious. “Support your child throughout the year with his or her studies, and encourage him or her to do regular revision to stay up to date with their work.”
It could however lead to unnecessary anxiety if parents place too much emphasis on the importance of exams, Hosking warns. “Remind your child that exams are only one part of their education and that results are not the only thing that matters and that their wellbeing is of the utmost importance.”
Exam times are synonymous with heightened stress levels, but Hosking point out that stress levels have to come down once the exam is over.
“If stress should continue or feel uncontrollable every time there is a test, exam or deadline, it is suggested that a professional person, such as a psychiagtrist, be requested to help with the development of handling mechanisms, time management skills and the building of resilience.”