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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SCHOOL WORK ETHIC

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I have watched all my kids address their homework and study needs in differing ways. One of my kids has always left her homework until the night before it is due, believing she works better under pressure, whilst another does her homework and assignments as soon as they are given. The job gets done either way, however when they reach more senior years of schooling, leaving things to the death knock brings about unnecessary stress and under preparedness.

I try to suggest (okay I nag) my kids to do revision of the work they have learnt that day so that the information sinks in. Then when exams rear their ugly heads, it’s not so daunting to have to revise months worth of work. Similarly, I recommend that they chip away at an assignment as soon as it is received, so the end result is more thorough and therefore scores higher.

Although the school and I try to drum into the kids this form of study work ethic, it seems to me that a child’s nature is the over-riding factor in the way they approach work. In my experience, the kids who have always been crammers remain to work that way and the methodical plodders continue that way too.

As a parent, how much should you interfere with your kid’s study? After all, the only one that is affected by their preparedness or lack thereof is your child. Should they be left to sink or swim? Having said that, as a parent you really want to see your child reach their highest potential, so I’m sure there wouldn’t be too many parents that don’t encourage their kids to study and work hard.

It’s a fine balance between being an inspiring and supportive parent versus creating conflict that may stress out an already frazzled kid.

As with everything in life, finding that balance is the key! What are your thoughts?

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

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)

TWENTY FOR TILLY

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My heart breaks as I share this story with you. Earlier this year, my friend Carmen and her husband Kyle had a beautiful daughter Tilly – a little sister for their gorgeous son Jock. At Tilly’s standard eight week check up they were shocked to find out Tilly has Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and in order to have a chance to survive she must undertake two years of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.

This family’s life has been turned upside down. Life as they knew it changed, as Carmen and Kyle took on a roster of one looking after their son, whilst the other stayed in the hospital with Tilly. Every time they leave the hospital they don’t know whether it will be the last time they will see their baby girl alive. With a depleted immune system there have been a few close calls but little Tilly is a brave and courageous fighter.

Most parents of small babies are focused on them reaching their milestones of sitting, rolling and crawling. Tilly has a different set of milestones. The next milestone for Tilly is a bone marrow transplant.

Imagine the stress of being utterly helpless to do anything to heal your daughter, other than sit by and watch as she undergoes multiple surgeries and is constantly pumped full of chemicals to kill off this insidious disease. Add to that the stress of day-to-day expenses and mounting medical bills, when neither you nor your husband can work for fear of possibly missing precious moments with your critically ill child. The Swains are proud people and have not asked anyone for help, but you don’t have to be in their shoes to know that although we can’t help eradicate Tilly’s cancer, we can help ease the stress of monetary concerns by assisting this family in need.

A fundraising page has been started to help the Swains where we ask you to donate $20 for Tilly. This small amount may not make much of an impact on your weekly budget, but will mean the world to a family dealing with unbearable stress. Please find it in your heart to help and to share this story.

I will keep you updated with Tilly’s progress and hope to report in the future that she has grown into a happy and healthy little girl, with no memory of her difficult start to life.