Dealing with exam results as a parent

Yesterday, P6 students from all over Singapore returned to their primary schools with a single purpose - to receive their long-awaited PSLE results. If your child was one of those hopeful students, you would likely be aware of the outcome of their exams by now.

No matter what their performance was, it’s possible that your child might look back on their papers in a negative light. As parents, we are often the only people that can help them get over their internal struggles.

On stress, exams, and parental expectations

Recently, we released a two-part video series on our YouTube channel featuring guest speaker and emotional intelligence coach Rasathi, who gave advice on how students and parents can manage stress and anxiety with regard to exam result expectations.

She began by referencing a survey done by Geniebook on our students and the responses that were gathered. Some notable findings include:

  • Most students experience immense pressure before the actual exams
  • ‘Meeting parents’ expectations’ was ranked as the most common source of stress by almost 38% of respondents
  • The second most common reason for stress is students’ own desire to qualify for their future school of choice

However, the survey also highlighted another interesting fact: although students remarked that their parents’ expectations were their main source of stress, about 43% of respondents also confirmed that their parents were also their preferred support system. With this paradox, it’s easy to see why parents like us can play a crucial role in helping them to manage their stress and anxieties.

Supporting your child in good times and bad

Whether it’s coping with the aftermath of getting their PSLE results or the uncertainties of getting to their dream school, your child will likely experience a rollercoaster of emotions in the weeks to follow. Luckily, Rasathi takes the time to address several points related to this issue in the video. Watch part 1 or part 2 of it now, or read on for a quick summary of what was discussed.


"How can parents like me be a better support system for my child?"

A parent’s primary objective is to help their child reduce stress levels. To do that, first listen closely to their concerns and take them seriously; what might be a trivial matter to you might be a life-altering situation for them.

Each child also deals with stress differently, so it’s equally important to find the appropriate remedy that works for them. What helps their sibling might not be as effective for them. Even your own past experiences as a young student and coping strategies might not be a good fit.


"How can I manage my own expectations as a parent?"

We all pin our hopes and dreams on our children in some way or other, but it’s important to recognise when to rein ourselves in and allow them more breathing space.

This means consciously breaking the habit of imposing strict rules and requirements, and to trust in your own child to perform at their best. After all, children in general do try very hard to meet both their parents’ as much as possible, and they are sometimes even tougher on themselves due to a need for self-validation.


"How should my child cope with their exam results?"

The pursuit of excellent grades sometimes makes for unreasonable expectations. If a student receives 85 marks out of 100 for an exam, they are more likely to bemoan the missing 15 marks than to celebrate the already impressive score. One can only imagine the inner torment of the student who receives only 55, or 65 marks in their attempt.

To help your child overcome this mental obstacle, try providing them with a fresh perspective: that the marks that they did not get does not imply failure on their part, but merely identifying learning gaps that they can address and improve on for their next exam. As their parent, you should also convey this sentiment while believing in it as well, otherwise your child may interpret your advice as superficial.


"How can I tell if my child is stressed or unhappy about their exam results?"

The most common indicator of unhappiness is a change in their behaviour. If your typically bubbly child suddenly becomes withdrawn and silent after returning home with their PSLE results, there’s a strong possibility that there’s something weighing on their mind - their feelings about the results being the most likely source.

Although the change is easy to spot when studying them for some time, their emotions can be subtle enough that any unsuspecting parent may go about their days without noticing anything out of the ordinary. That’s why it’s important to pay closer attention to your child once in a while to check if they’re doing well mentally.

Aside from that, it’s also very helpful to proactively check in with your child from time to time. This can range from a quick conversation during mealtimes, or spending time with them outside the house. Some children do their best to put on a brave front for their parents because they are reluctant to become a source of burden, which makes it even more crucial for the occasional checks to happen.


"How can I reduce their overall stress?"

It’s the holidays, so give them the time to rest and relax! This is the perfect time for your child to forget about the stresses of school and studies, giving them a taste of proper work-life balance.

Besides allowing your child freedom to do what they like (within reason), you should also spend time with them. This will help build up your relationship and reassure them that you will always be available as a permanent support system - a fact that they can take solace in whenever they face difficulties in future.

Want to learn more about helping your children cope with stress from exams? Watch the two-parter video featuring Rasathi on our Youtube channel here and here, or start watching Part 1 below.

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