Matric? Examinations? Here are a couple of ideas on how best to support your teenager during their preparation for matric final exams, coming from a recently graduated student.

We all remember the time we were reaching the age where we would be allowed to drive legally. A time of power in the high school realm and tons of 18th birthday parties were swinging. Well matric was also a time of anxiety, trauma, and scarring. Only one word can evoke such feelings.

Examinations. Or Matric Finals.

This is the climax of their schooling career and everything they have been learning for. As well as their gateway into life after school and ultimately how they remember school in general.

No pressure.

For most students it means achieving their best marks yet with their final push. It could be to get into a tertiary learning institution, to receive a bursary, or to apply for any range of jobs. There is so much at stake with decisions about the future that matric in general, and especially towards the end, can be extremely stressful.

You as a parent will also feel this pressure as you try best support your children to achieve their best, be it for personal or mutually beneficial reasons. And as you can imagine, a household full of stressed people is a recipe for burnout and conflict.

Under pressure

You need to balance the pressure that teenagers already feel on a regular basis. Pressure comes from their teachers, warning them constantly that these daunting exams are looming closer day by day. From their peers who are either scrambling to find the easiest way to learn everything at once (last minute), or those panicking that they forgot something important. From themselves and their goals and expectations from what they have already achieved.

A healthy amount of pressure balanced with plenty encouragement will ensure the pressure cooker doesn’t boil over.

Tradition

Matric exams are often associated as being a huge event on which so much depends, and the expectation is that life must stop to be able to study sufficiently. While Finals are a big event, changing routine may negatively affect your teenager’s ability to concentrate, memorise and recall the information they study.

Your teenager has been training how to write exams since primary school and changing this routine at the last minute is like trying to bake a new brownie recipe when your grandmother’s recipe has worked for years.

All you end up with is a flop and disappointment.

Balance

In tune with routine, and classically coming from a physiotherapist – physical activity while preparing for exams is vital. If their body is used to a certain amount of physical activity on a weekly basis, and now their routine changes to include less to accommodate for more study time, their mental capacity with their body shuts down easier. It’s harder to concentrate for long and memorise work.

Exercise the body, exercise the mind.

Big picture

Reward your teenager with snacks or a favourite treat but not too often. There is the temptation to create a reward system to help your teenager study. What I found was that the sugary treat made me sleepy or craving more, which is a slippery slope down comfort eating. While a reward is always welcome (for anyone I can guess), the reward and goal are not to finish studying but to write exams well and finish school off strong.

Healthy snacks are usually a good idea.

Write-off

Using a calendar or year planner to record all exams, and then physically tick off each one as they finish is really satisfying and helps create a sense that things are moving along. It is also a great way for you to understand what examination is happening next and how many there are left.

Repetition

It is helpful to know what exam is next. I found it supportive to have my dad asking me about what history events I was studying for History. This is not a suggestion to ‘spot quiz’ your teenager on facts and things you think they should know. This can be quite stress inducing. And may create some hesitation from them to share with you. Rather try having casual conversations, gauge how prepared they are feeling or any way of using repetition.

Be creative!

Negative distraction

You have passed that time of your life and you are entitled to your entertainment. But it is the worst feeling when I was in the zone on the study train and could hear my favourite television show on or people playing a game of soccer outside. In other words, you have an influence on concentration and keep the volume down.

Positive distraction

Home and the room where they study can become quite a monotonous and boring place to reside. It is an awesome opportunity to vacate the vicinity and have some fun elsewhere. For me, I love the beach. So, walking the dogs along the beach was a great way to take my mind off work for a bit.

Getting out also helps create a sense of urgency to continue with their session, and achievement once they finish studying a section.

Start

Studying is daunting.

There’s a whole truckload of information to commit to their amygdala (brain’s filing system) and starting is often the hardest part. But once their brain starts working, it becomes easier to study and concentrate. Help your teenager start with a little bit. The rest will surely follow.

Church

In stride with maintaining normal routine, continuing to attend church services and events is so important. Church and faith often fall to the last priority during exams. What a great place to debrief, share their stressors and blessings with our Father and ask for help with Final Exams. Even Scripture shares in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

We are firstly Christians and then a student, a parent.

A big milestone

Matric Final Examinations are a big milestone. Best supporting your teenager is maybe as daunting for you as it is for them to study, but we have a God who supports us and guides us. Trust in Him and remember these points about routine, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and your teenager will fly high over the hurdle and finish the journey of the high school-steeple chase strong.