Stress of matric exams takes its toll - on moms

16 October 2016 - 02:00 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER

Matric moms are resorting to praying, retail therapy, baking and counselling to cope with the stress of the impending exams. While they might not be writing exams themselves, more than 500,000 mothers in South Africa are dreading the final exams, according to a medical aid group. The exams begin on Wednesday.Many moms are more stressed than their children.The possibility of embattled tertiary institutions extending their academic year because of violent #FeesMustFall protests is also putting strain on parents and matric pupils, experts warned this week.Johannesburg psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus said she found "a general increase in stress levels among clients" around this time of year."Some particular stressors include the preparation around matric farewell events, final exam preparation, the selection of suitable tertiary qualifications as well as awaiting feedback regarding applications."The uncertainty around the current state of affairs surrounding tertiary institutions is a concern for parents and matriculants."She said the uncertainty could lead to emotional distress.Matric mom Nirvana Nair said she felt "like I'm in matric", although it is her son Rushen who is preparing for his final exams."The matric year is an overwhelming and emotional year ... The current state of universities is a serious cause of concern. I am hoping my son will be able to study in a safe environment and exercise his right to an education."Despite her son's diligent preparations, Nair said she was anxious."I de-stress by enjoying a good book and some retail therapy. I also enjoy baking, which I find very therapeutic.The Westville Boys' High pupil, who has been provisionally accepted to study commerce at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: "At times it is good to have a stressed-out parent ... it makes you put in more effort with your studies."However, at other times it would help if the parent was calm, Rushen said.Jabu Nkosi is equally stressed, particularly because she has to give her daughter Amanda long-distance support.Nkosi, who is a domestic worker in Durban, said she was concerned for her daughter because she lives far away."She is living with my mother in Esikhawini, which is about 150km north of Durban."I am very stressed but Amanda tries to calm me down."Nkosi's solace is daily prayer.Parenting expert Nikki Bush said parents were stressed because they were "aware of the long-term ramifications of poor results"."We are very connected to our children. Our anxiety is infectious ... mothers of matrics need to take care of themselves."If it means booking yourself in to see a counsellor, do it, so there's no overflow of anxiety. Children have enough stress to deal with."Fedhealth has devised a matric mom's survival guide because, said the medical aid's principal officer, Jeremy Yatt, "they play a key role in their children's results and could do with a bit of support themselves"."Apart from the normal stress associated with having a child in Grade 12 and seeing them through their final exams, we believe that the added uncertainty over tertiary institutions is causing additional anxiety among parents ... and with good reason."Survival tips for matric mothers• Be patient and understanding. Provide your 12th-grader with silence, private space and support while he or she studies.• Learn to step back. Be careful not to let your own ambitions take over. School is your child's job, not yours.• Provide healthy meals and have brain-food snacks in the kitchen.• Encourage positive thinking.Source: Fedhealth

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