Final Exams

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Nerves, trepidation and anxiety are all hallmarks of the students who have finished their senior schooling and are now faced with their final exams.

As my eldest daughter sits her HSC (Higher School Certificate) I’m filled with pride at her tenacity but also worry about the pressure she is putting on herself to do well, which in all fairness is probably a manifestation of all the expectations her teachers, family, friends and peers have all put on her.

She told me that given her timetable, with her four hardest exams in the first three days, she worries that she can’t live up to everyone’s standards. Her head is swimming with information that realistically is probably irrelevant for her in the future.

As I’ve said to her time and again, as long as she tries her hardest, she can be proud of her effort.

What has surprised me is how exhausted she is from sitting her exams. She is truly fatigued from trying to remember and recall so much information.

There is so much weight given to these last exams, but they are not the be all and end all of the life she is planning. Even if she bombs out in these exams, there will be ways forward either through further education or work experience. Life has a way of working things out.

As each exam passes she gains relief by throwing out all her study notes and practice essays for that subject. It’s like a visual representation of the weight being lifted from her shoulders.

This time in three weeks she will be free of her exams and will have a chance to let down her hair and party. When she is at her most stressed I keep reminding her that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember being in her shoes and also stressing beyond belief but when I received my results it seemed an anticlimax because by then I had the clarity to realise that your results don’t define you nor do they limit your potential. Life is what you make it!

(Image courtesy of inus12345, freedigitalphotos.net)

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ARMED HOLD-UP

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Last night I watched a ‘60 Minutes’ story on the siege at the Lindt Café in Sydney in December 2014. What struck me was the heroic and brave actions of the younger hostages held in this siege. These uni students, who were part-time workers at the café, were able to make clear decisions in a time of extreme stress and on the whole seem to be coping well in the aftermath.

It reminded me of a time when I was 17, working part-time at the local Pizza Hut. One night after closing the restaurant for trade, two masked gunmen held the staff at gunpoint, whilst our Manager was taken out the back of the restaurant to empty the safe. The older people I was working with were shaking and sobbing, whilst I was trying to memorise the clothes worn by the armed robber who had his gun pointed at me. I then tried to work out his height by counting the number of tiles on the wall behind him. Whilst I was obviously terrified, I kept calm and tried to think as logically as possible, wanting to give the police the most accurate account of events as possible.

Once the thieves left the restaurant, I called my parents to let them know I would be late, telling them I had been ‘held up’. Due to the nuances in the English language my mother took that to mean I had been waylaid, not that I had been actually held up at gunpoint.

I was able to give police a clear description of the thieves and then went home, to live my life with as much normality as possible. I kept working at that Pizza Hut for a few months, but found that any time we closed the restaurant I began to feel anxious. Eventually I gave that job away and worked in a boutique, which was both a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed the work, but never had money because I spent all my wages on clothes that I could buy at staff discount!

I haven’t thought much about that armed hold up for a long time, which I guess shows you how resilient kids can be! I now reflect that my eldest daughter is the same age I was when that incident occurred and I fervently hope that none of my kids ever have to experience the stress of wielding to the demands of an irrational thug.

Obviously my experience pales into insignificance in comparison to the hostages in the Lindt Café siege that lasted hours. I just hope they can all move forward with their lives knowing that they did what they had to do in that situation and that they bear no responsibility for the actions of the deranged terrorist who was accountable for the death of two innocent people.

(Photo courtesy of Pong, freedigitalphotos.net)

PERFECTIONISTS  

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I recently had an interesting discussion with a mum who has been attending a course addressing anxiety in children. The lecturer made the point that people who are perfectionists often suffer anxiety if things are not done to the standard they desire. This requirement for perfection is then forced upon their children, also making them anxious if things aren’t done right.

She went on the say that parents who have a high level of expectation on their children, often intervene and actually take over the task their child should do (eg. homework, making bed, packing bag etc) to ensure it is done to their standard. This creates a vicious cycle because the child doesn’t learn to do the tasks for themselves and if the parent forgets to do something for the child it leaves the child feeling anxious and upset.

The advice the lecturer gave to the parents attending her course, was to let their children be more independent and to learn the consequences of not having things done perfectly. This will help build more resilient kids and will teach them a level of responsibility for their actions. A teacher is more interested in seeing a child’s attempt at homework, rather than the polished version that a parent has assisted (ie. done) for their child. If a child forgets to pack their library books, then they need to understand they can’t borrow new ones, until they remember to return the ones they already have.

I felt vindicated that a professional has the same opinion as I do on the subject of letting your children do things for themselves. I wrote a post last year ‘The fine line between assisting and doing’ on the subject of giving your children guidance but leaving them to do their homework themselves.

Children need parents to set examples for them, teach them life skills and give them a chance to take responsibility for their actions so that they grow into well-adjusted adults. So if you are a parent who is a perfectionist, take a deep breath and try to live with a little imperfection in your life so that you don’t create anxiety in your children. Kids need to live and learn – so let them!

“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect.” – Adam Osborne

(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitialphotos.net)