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For families and learners, exam time is stressful, placing extra pressure on all members of the household.

Here are a few tips to help everyone cope with exam time stress.

Whether your child is in Grade 4 and writing tests for the first time, or in Grade 12 and writing the final exam of their school career, they are likely to experience stress at this time. And exam time can be stressful for the whole family. However, there are things you can do as a family to ensure that your child approaches each exam feeling positive and prepared.

Eight hours of sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial when writing exams – at least eight hours. Reports state that losing one hour of sleep every night could lower your IQ by one point. If your child is struggling to sleep, try an app like Headspace or Noisli. These allow them to choose from different sounds (like thunder, wind or white noise, and even the buzz of a coffee shop) to create their ideal sleep soundtrack. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee, cola and chocolate, for at least four hours before bedtime.

More water

Dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches and poor concentration. Keep a jug of water and a glass on your child’s desk, and flavour it up with slices of apple and mint, to help ensure they stay hydrated.

Revision is crucial

Michael Goodman-Mareme, Group Knowledge Manager at Via Afrika says good revision techniques are crucial for exam success. Via Afrika, publishes a comprehensive range of educational materials for schools and TVET colleges, offering invaluable advice about coping with the stresses of exam time. “If facts are learned quickly, they’re forgotten quickly, because they are in the short-term memory. Regular revision allows you to remember facts for a long time, as they’ll be entrenched as part of your long-term memory,” he says.

Past papers

Use past examination papers to revise the work, says Goodman-Mareme. “Old papers illustrate the ways in which a subject has been tested in the past. They will help your child become familiar with the ways in which questions have been asked, and alert them to what kinds of questions they may find tricky.”

Time to study

Now isn’t the time to enforce house chores and tasks. Rather ensure your child’s energy is put into studying. Be mindful of noise, make sure music and TV noise is turned down at study times.

Exercise as a release

Exercise serves as a great stress outlet during exams –  even if it’s just a half hour walk. It gives the brain an oxygen boost, and releases various brain-boosting hormones, such dopamine, which positively influences learning and attention, and serotonin, which boosts mood and helps regulate sleep cycles.

Regular breaks

Spending hours and hours studying without a break can result in a frustrated, exhausted child. During the break, encourage activities that allow the brain to take a break from thinking and remembering. A movement break – a short walk or stretching – refreshes the mind, and a quick meditation or breathing exercise in a quiet setting will help to improve your child’s productivity when they return to their books.

Healthy snacks

The brain is the greediest organ in the body, so make sure their overall diet is based on starchy foods like bread, rice and pasta, with added dairy, meat and veg. Food like chips, sugary snacks and soft drinks can result in concentration problems and restlessness. During study breaks, learners should have healthy snacks and drinks on hand. Your child’s favourite snack is a great reward for a successful study session.

on the day…

Keep the house calm and positive. Make sure your child eats a protein-rich breakfast, such as scrambled eggs and toast. Other protein-rich foods include cottage cheese, yoghurt, nuts and whole-grain cereal with milk. If your child is too nervous for a full breakfast, try a protein shake instead.

…and after

Spend a bit of time after an exam chatting to your child about how the paper went, and calm them down if they found the questions challenging. Use this time to encourage them for the next exam, and give them a pat on the back for their efforts thus far.

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