Beyond sending our primary school kids to tuition centres, how should parents in Singapore handle stress effectively so that they can equip their children to do likewise?
With the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) being just months away, primary 6 pupils all over Singapore are in overdrive mode as they race to prepare the best that they can for the actual day. Many of them are enrolled into tuition centres their entire primary school experience. It is common to hear about the stress our PSLE students are under during this season; what is not discussed enough is the fact that PSLE parents are feeling the heat.
Here are some tips on managing personal stress and pressures our children face:
Keeping our emotions in check
Think through these questions. Have you set conditions when it comes to loving your children? Does “Get these results or do this my way, then I will love you” sound familiar? Do you reward your child with praise and gifts when they achieve grades that you desire, and hold back when those benchmarks are not met?
Such messages always undermine motivation. We may not express these thoughts aloud, but do we subconsciously convey such messages through our tone of voice or non-verbal signals when we fail to keep our own anxieties in check?
Also, do we look to our children for “completion” — where we feel good in their success —, or to fulfil our dreams for us? Such attitudes can put unnecessary pressure on us and, more importantly, result in unfair expectations of our children. Instead, we need to remember that our self-worth as parents cannot be based on our children’s academic performance; this way of thinking is incredibly unhealthy for all of us.
Ultimately, children must know that we love them unconditionally — we love them not because they are performing well or better than their peers, but we love them in spite of anything and everything they may or may not do. Their worth should not be determined by how fantastic their examination grades are. Our children need to know that they will be supported with love, regardless of their results, as we encourage them to do the best they can in their studies.
Further reading: 5 Secrets to Scoring in Primary School Without Tuition
Breaking free from stress
Helping our children do their best academically does not necessarily entail harsh discipline and constant nagging. Learning and studying can be made fun too. In fact, fun is serious business for a happy family. Parents can, and should, create a positive atmosphere even during examination time. Going for a walk with our kids, playing a board game, and do crazy things like camping in the living room can help them de-stress and relax. When our children are happy, they are more likely to be better learners, and you will enjoy an easier time teaching them.
Undoubtedly, stress will rear its ugly head at times, and the key is helping our children handle it well. It is important to remember that our job as parents is to help them deal with these stresses and emotions effectively, rather than shelter them or dismiss these realities.
We should keep a lookout for symptoms of stress like headaches, stomach aches, depression or loss of appetite. Recognise that negative emotions can be opportunities for intimacy and teaching, where we can encourage open and candid conversations and let them feel understood.
Seize opportunities to share how you experienced certain pressures while in school, how you coped and overcame challenges to inspire and motivate your children to do the same. Let them know that stress is part and parcel of challenging situations, and you will be there to cheer them on and guide them to manage the pressures.
As parents, we naturally want the best for our children, especially in their PSLE year. Equipping our children to do well in their examinations is important, but so is helping them become happy and effective learners not just in the school setting, but in life.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by: Elvira Tan