Assessment books done? Check. Past-year exam papers? Check. Now your kid’s all set for the exams, right? Not so fast. Here’s what else you need to do to get him focused, energised and motivated.
1. PRAISE MORE, NAG LESS
Support your child and watch his confidence soar. Rather than nag him to study or make him feel bad for not putting in enough effort, praise him when he does accomplish his study goals.
“If you want to motivate your child to do his best, use positive reinforcement rather than focus on negative points, such as what he is not doing, or not doing enough of,” says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.
“You should also remind him of the importance of studying – not to meet your expectations, but so that he will be prepared for exams.”
And, when Junior is stressed and needs to vent, listen to him, Daniel adds. “He doesn’t want to feel like he’s in this alone, so tell him that you understand what he’s going through and reassure him that he’s not the only one who’s worried about doing well.”
2. MAKE SURE HE GETS ENOUGH REST
Sleep deprivation can affect your kid’s alertness, ability to learn, mood, behaviour, growth and long-term physical health, says Dr Teoh Oon Hoe, head and senior consultant with the Respiratory Medicine Service of the department of paediatrics, at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).
“It is recommended that lower-primary pupils get between 10 and 11 hours of sleep a night, and upper-primary pupils and adolescents get at least eight to nine hours.”
It’s not a good idea to let him burn the midnight oil, as this is likely to work against him, affecting his memory recall and concentration the following day, and hampering his learning capacity when revising for exams.
“Research has shown that sleep quality and quantity are closely related to a student’s learning capacity and academic performance, and that sleep loss is frequently associated with poor declarative learning – learning of facts and events – and procedural learning, which involves learning of skills and how to do things,” says Dr Teoh.
“Studies have also shown that, when sleep is actively restricted or optimised, there is a respective worsening or improvement in neurocognitive and academic performances.”
Related story: Why is my child always tired?
3. FEED HIS BRAIN
You might think that you’re doing him a favour by giving him convenience foods that are quick and easy to eat. But such meals are far from balanced and can affect his brain health.
To make sure he has enough “brain power” to study, prepare his meals using these superfoods, says Dr Han Wee Meng, head and senior principal dietitian with the nutrition and dietetics department at KKH:
• Salmon This oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is the predominant structural fatty acid in the central nervous system, and is therefore essential for brain growth and function.
• Eggs Egg yolks are an important source of choline, which is a key component of cell membranes and thus accounts for a high percentage of brain mass. It also forms acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that carries messages to and from nerves. As such, choline is important for brain and memory function.
• Lean meat is a rich source of minerals like zinc and iron. Zinc forms an integral part of the structure that regulates communication between nerve channels, and it has been shown that low levels can lead to faulty memory. Iron aids in supplying oxygen to the brain and a deficiency is associated with cognitive and attention deficit.
• Dairy Milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium. Besides its role in bone health, it forms an important part of the electrical signals within the brain.
• Nuts and seeds Packed with protein and essential fatty acids, these are also high in vitamin E, several B vitamins, iron and zinc, which are important for brain function. Nuts and seeds are naturally high in beneficial monounsaturated fats, so if Junior’s weight is of concern, limit his intake. Walnuts and flaxseeds, in particular, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
• Whole grains (including oats) These are rich in carbohydrates, and the high fibre content helps to regulate and maintain a constant supply of glucose needed for brain energy and function. They are also high in certain B vitamins that assist in making neurotransmitters. The combination of nutrients in wholegrain food has also been shown to improve auditory attention and memory cognition.
4. GIVE HIM REGULAR BREAKS
Several hours of non-stop studying will not help your child. To ensure that he maintains his focus and concentration, get him to take a short break every 45 minutes or so.
But don’t keep him cooped up at home. Daniel says that it’s important for him to get fresh air and exercise, as these help to reduce stress, boost his energy levels, and give both his brain and body some much-needed downtime.
Sharing jokes and getting him to laugh can also help ease his frazzled nerves and reduce his stress levels.
Related story: Study desk tips