Lean in? Stay away? It’s not easy knowing how best to support your child through the inevitable stresses of writing their matric exams. It’s an experience that can be as challenging to parents as it is to students, and you might need to be managing impacts on other family members too. As parents, you have a pivotal emotional support role to play and the experts at the upcoming, free SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) Parents’ Guide to Matric Support webinar will give you a holistic approach to not just surviving but thriving through your child’s matric experience.
Getting the balance right between giving support while enabling your child to own their study and exam process can be tough, especially if we’re witnessing our child struggle under pressure. As parents we can be quick to jump in with practical advice based on our past experiences, but this might be far from the help they actually need. Sometimes, we can inadvertently exacerbate our child’s stress. Learning to ask our child to identify what they need from us is not always easy if we think we already know the solution. Managing our own expectations, hopes and fears for our child can be a particular challenge for many of us that is brought to the fore by the knife-edge atmosphere around matric exams.
Join other matric parents and the SACAP panel on the morning of Saturday, 21 August for an hour and half online event which will unpack the importance of study approaches, coping strategies, nutrition and exercise. The webinar will include an interactive Q&A session, so you can engage in conversation with the experts and learn from the concerns of other parents.
Registered Counsellor, Kirsten Harrison who has a special interest in higher education as well as trauma, points out that communication is key to letting your child manage their studies and exams autonomously while providing a safety net if things get too tough. She says, “We need to ensure we do not take away from the child being able to develop their own optimal study approach and rhythm, which may be different from ours. It helps to be curious about your child’s approach so that you can understand how it works for them. Asking how you can help them get through a rough patch will get better results than telling them how you think they should do things. In essence, your child’s journey through their matric exams is not just about the marks they achieve at the end; it also provides day-by-day opportunities for them to develop personal self-mastery.”
Caring and sensitive parental support is not just centred on the study activities. You can be a positive and enabling influence when it comes to helping your child take care of both body and mind. Nutrition expert, Robyn-Leigh Mentor knows that you can’t think well if you don’t eat well. She will share top diet hacks with parents and advise on how to provide healthy and delicious food on a budget. Your consistent, gentle encouragement of healthy eating, sufficient sleep and physical activity will help your child to cope better with stress and pressure.
Counselling Psychologist, Jogini Packery will be talking about setting expectations and coping strategies. She says, “It’s important to understand that having a positive attitude towards matric studies and exams is not about pretending it’s all going to be peachy and rosy. It’s about your child having the coping strategies that enable them to settle their emotions and focus on what needs to be done next. Jogini explains that we all have innate coping strategies that help us feel better in tough moments, but not all coping strategies return us quickly to a balanced state – they can lead us to being distracted or avoidant at a time when what your child really needs is to get back on track as quickly as possible. Jogini says, “Parents can provide essential support in helping their child to constantly reevaluate what is working for them and what is not. Mental agility and flexibility are at the core of resilience. If something that your child is doing is not serving a healthy purpose, then you can encourage them to set healthy boundaries and rewards. For instance, taking a break to watch a favourite programme can help reset emotionally, but binge-watching a whole series can lead them into deeper stress. The reward is important, and so is the boundary.”
Through open communication in a kind and caring environment, parents can also help to gauge when states of distress, anxiety, burn-out or depression require more help than they alone can provide. Reaching out to a support system or getting professional help is an important step to take if the stress has tipped over into too much stress.
To find out more, join SACAP’s Parent’s Guide to Matric Support Webinar on Saturday, 21 August 2021 from 10h00 to 11h30. Registration is free and you can sign up here.