The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) continues to be a high-stakes exam, even with proposed changes that takes place in 2021. Here’s how to help your child manage the stress that comes with it.
Teach your kid to practise mental relaxation
“Tell your child: ‘Think of a place, either real or imaginary. Close your eyes and make your mind go blank. Imagine that there’s a movie screen at the back of your eyelids. Project images and sounds onto it using your senses, to ease yourself into total relaxation. Remember these images and feelings.’
Your kid can practise this three times a day for the first month and subsequently once a day or as often as needed,” suggests Alan Yip, founder of Mind Edge.
Encourage him to exercise
Get him to do a physical activity to take his mind off his studies for a bit, or develop hobbies that don’t relate to his studies.
“If they have a reason to finish their work on time, it will give them the incentive to work smart. Also get them to set achievable targets and reward them with positive comments,” says Helen Marjan, CEO and director of studies at Lorna Whiston Schools.
Tell him to remain positive
Remind your child to accept his limitations. “Not everyone can get straight As, so tell your child that he can only do his best. Remind yourself, and him, that nobody is perfect,” Helen says.
Alan chimes in: “When your child has set his goals, he must press on even when he’s tired and there are many challenges ahead. Get him to practise positive visualisation – ask him to close his eyes and think of an occasion when he was engaged in a very successful activity, and was feeling confident, happy and in control – the same feelings he’ll experience when he achieves his goals.”
Listen without prejudice
Encourage your child to ask questions and to express his concerns and fears. Build up his confidence by using encouragement and affection, instead of punishment.
“Allow your child to make choices and have some control in his life. The more people feel they have control over a situation, the better their response to stress will be,” Helen advises.
Plan a family outing each week
Visits to the science centre, zoo and bird park not only help your kids to de-stress, but will also expose them to science topics.
“This way, your children are learning and enjoying themselves at the same time,” says Alan. “I’d also recommend sports activities. Exercise releases serotonin, a chemical which helps to reduce stress levels.”
Make sure he gets nine hours of sleep a night
Bedtime should be consistent. “A lack of sleep can lead to decreased attentiveness, poorer short-term memory, inconsistent performance and delayed response time. Make sure that there’s enough time for your children to unwind before they sleep,” Helen says.
Boost your child’s nutritional intake
Provide him with healthy meals and snacks to raise his energy levels.
“Too much sugar will turn him hyperactive while too little sugar makes him tired and irritable. Replace biscuits and cakes with a fruit bowl and make sure he eats lots of vegetables. Don’t buy sugary drinks – encourage him to drink lots of water instead,” Helen advises.
Limit his intake of fast food and encourage him to eat more oats, brown rice and bread, wholewheat pasta as well as seeds and nuts.
These, along with oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon, are all good sources of essential fats, necessary for developing a healthy brain.
Play with colours
Colours stimulate the brain, increasing productivity and accuracy, Helen says.
“Cool colours like blue, green, purple and silver can help people to concentrate better. You may have noticed that libraries often use a pale colour or light green to create an effect that enhances quietness and concentration. You can do the same with your child’s bedroom or study room walls.”
Alan also suggests using different coloured pens. “Brighter colours like red and orange release happy chemicals in the brain, stimulating it to remember better.”
Just before the exam
Alan says: “A day before the exam, get all the study materials together. Spend 30 minutes doing an overview of the materials with your child before intensively reviewing only the most important ones.
“Then, spend time creating mind maps or reciting the main points out loud. Put the points into a song or draw pictures if you need to, if such ways will help the child retain information better.” He also advises that children should get plenty of sleep on the eve of the exam.
Alan advises you to remind your child: “In the hours immediately before the exam, do not try to learn anything new. Use positive images in your mind and talk to yourself in a positive way. Review what you need to do if you are nervous – avoid talking to other nervous students.
“During the exam, don’t pay attention to what others are doing. Budget your time wisely and tackle the questions that you’re confident about first.”
A version of this article first appeared in Simply Her.