One of the most stressful periods children go through is when they have exams. Frequently, the stress is not only felt by the children but by their parents too. Academic achievement tends to be considered as very important by a lot of parents. This means that parents would want their child to do well at school and to get good grades in exams. 25% of the parents who responded to a recent survey, believed that their own mental health was affected by the pressure of their child’s exams (BBC, 2017). When it is time for results to be published, children and parents can feel stressed once again. The reactions parents have when they open their child’s results, tends to leave great impact on how children view themselves.
When children make an effort to study, it is important to acknowledge such effort. Some children have cognitive limitations thus, even when they try hard and study they still get lower marks. If your child has tried their best, support them by telling them that you are proud of the effort that they did. Also, remember that everyone has their areas of strengths and areas of needs. Children tend to do better in some subjects over others. Thus, if your child needs to improve in specific subjects e.g. in Maths, tell them so and do not generalise that they need to do better in exams overall.
You also need to keep your expectations in check. Whilst encouraging your child to study is good, be careful of the amount of pressure you place on them. Your expectations need to be realistic. Placing a lot of pressure onto your child can cause several difficulties which affect negatively the child’s mental health (Roth et al., 2009). Children will notice if you are disappointed and if they have tried their best, they will feel like a failure because they have disappointed their parent. When your child does well but you expected them to do better, do not tell them so i.e. that their results are okay but that they could have done even better. This leaves children feeling that no matter how hard they try, they are not good enough. Eventually they assimilate this belief as a part of who they are and as adults they will go on to believe that they are not good enough.
Comparing your children’s results is another thing to avoid. If one child does better than the other, do not tell them so. This can lead to resentment over the other sibling and question whether you love their sibling more because they do better in exams.
In conclusion, it is important that you encourage your child to study and try the best that they can. Support them throughout the process of preparing for exams. When they receive the results, you need to acknowledge the effort they placed into studying and praise them for it.
BBC. (2017). Exams stress out parents too. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-39194335
Roth, G., Assor, A., Niemiec, C. P., Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). The emotional and academic consequences of parental conditional regard: Comparing conditional positive regard, conditional negative regard, and autonomy support as parenting practices. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1119 –1142. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0015272
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.