By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED, Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant
Exams are upon us. Our children are about to finally sit the long-awaited SEA, CSEC and CAPE assessments for which they have spent the last few years preparing.
How are they feeling? How are we as parents feeling?
Disappointment is probably ranking very high as they were fit and ready to burst out of the stalls to run their races when the lockdown was announced. SEA students were a mere 2–3 weeks away from their exam, and higher level students were in the middle of mock exams.
As much as people do not like exams, there is satisfaction in seeing one’s hard work pay off. The sense of relief some felt at the cancellation of exams was probably quickly replaced by disappointment. Then uncertainty set in not knowing if and when the exams would ever take place.
We probably all feel exasperated now with the never-ending extra online lessons and facing almost no summer vacation. And now maybe there is fear. Students at the higher levels face greater uncertainty and disappointment, unsure of what they are being assessed on, what the multiple choice component will be like, whether it will be trickier than normal had they had their long paper exams as well.
SEA students will most likely not feel too affected as they get a chance to normalise by going back to their familiar settings to polish up skills for the final home stretch.
So how can we BEST support our children at this time?
Hollywood actor Will Smith quotes the following “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not exist at present and may never exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”
We waste a lot of our thinking time imagining things that could turn out bad. Inventor Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is a preview of coming attractions”. He regarded imagination more important than knowledge.
Neuroscience is actually finding it very likely that the more we imagine events the more likely they are to occur, so all the more reason for not imagining accidents and misfortunes.
Our minds are very powerful. We must be careful what we think and say. St Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 to “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.
Many proverbs speak about the effects and power of the spoken word and “without a vision a people perish” (Prov 29:18). Let’s imagine positive things for ourselves and others.
Of primary importance is managing our own anxieties in the best way we possibly can. Verbalising our fears out loud in front of our children is not wise. As faith-filled Catholics, we should not even have fears. ‘Fear’ is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. Is that a coincidence? Or does our loving Heavenly Father know our fickle non-trusting nature so well that He put it in there for us to recall every day?
Let us grow in trust, faith and a peaceful heart and mind. And when we do feel those fearful feelings, let’s seek to learn strategies right now to manage those emotions.
An important reason why we should not voice our fears or anxieties in front of children is because they seem to have a sixth sense and can somehow read our vibes in an uncanny way without us uttering a word. Their subconscious mind seems programmed to sense emotional energies and react accordingly.
I would never forget my three-year-old son, on many occasions, asking me if I was mad as I drove hastily out our driveway, hustling anxiously to pick up and transport his older siblings.
And one of my daughters asking me ten times a day if I was ‘Ok’, when I was in the midst of quietly recovering from miscarriages and slight post-natal depression.
I too apparently demonstrated some peculiar behaviour, breaking glass deliberately on several occasions, at age five while my own parents were experiencing turmoil in their relationship. I was told this. I have no memory of it.
There is an instance where it is appropriate to voice our feelings to our children. When they are feeling fearful and we are empathising with them. It is actually good in this instance, to let them know that we too have had fears and how we coped with it.
Cutting edge research in neuroscience is showing that, peace, self-control, and emotional self-regulation are greatly increased by being mindful. So too is concentration, creativity, and memory.
Mindfulness, like meditation, is being revived worldwide now. Psychologists, psychotherapists, coaches, health, and well-being professionals are teaching adults and children how to develop it to better cope with challenges and to improve focus and attention.
I’ve known of children as young as three- and four-years old learning this and thus having less tantrums, less contradictory behaviour and improved concentration.
Lack of emotional regulation can be said to be responsible for most abuse and dysfunction.
The time is now, not just to grow in our capacity and adapt to the new normal, but also to thrive. With new thinking, using our imagination wisely, we can.
I’m offering ‘New Thinking’ workshops and programmes to empower people in companies, schools and the public sector, with knowledge and strategies to grow their brain and mindset, manage themselves and lead others so that all can experience greater health, happiness and success in their endeavours.
Visit www.growthopportunitiesltd.com or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org