As  more than half a million matrics in South Africa begin their exams soon, the hopes and dreams of our country rest on their shoulders. This is a huge responsibility for many teens who hope to succeed, despite tremendous adversity. Knowing they are not alone and having every South African rooting for them will help them be champions- not only today, but in the future as well.

Here are 10 practical tips all of us can follow to help our matrics:

  •  Be patient and understanding by providing your 12th grader with silence, private space and support while he studies. Keep other children in the home quiet and away from him. Television and radio should be played softly so as not to distract the student. It is a good time to encourage silent reading in the family in support of the matric student. Family arguments should be taken outside where he can’t hear you. Worrying about family members will create an enormous amount of unnecessary anxiety and stress for him.

  • Have loads of healthy ”brain food” snacks around the house for him to munch on such as bananas, chocolate, fresh fruit and vegetables, watermelon, wholegrain bread and cereals, unsalted nuts, fresh water, and sugar- free chewing gum. Limit the amount of caffeine, sugar and energy drinks available to him. Provide healthy balanced meals  which contain eggs, yoghurt, sweet potatoes, turkey, beef, and fish for omega 3 fatty acids. Supplement his diet with a tonic containing vitamins C, E, B6, B12, calcium, magnesium, and Alpha-lipoic Acid.

  • Invite your child to exercise with you during his breaks. Walk the dog or encourage your teen to join in a family dance/sing-a long. Even playing a quick game of table tennis or swimming can help release endorphins that enhance serotonin production, which combats feelings of depression and anxiety.

  • Take the pressure off your child. At this stage, your child needs support, patience and understanding. He is under enough strain as it is, so nagging him while  writing exams is counterproductive. Help him to problem solve and think critically if the exams are proving to be difficult. Arguing about his untidy room is pointless at this stage.

  • Teach your teen perseverance. Even if he fails his matric exam, it is not the ‘end of the world.’ “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success,” says  Denis Waitley. People who ultimately succeed in life have the ability to pick themselves up, create a new path, and continue with determination. Devise a plan B with your 12th grader which he is excited about if things are not going well. “It matters if you just don’t give up,”says famous scientist Stephen Hawking

  • Be aware of signs of depression, negative self talk, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, changes in your teen’s personality, and behaviour such as withdrawing from the family.  Seek help immediately through your family doctor. Alternatively contact the South African depression and anxiety group on  0800 20 50 26 or the suicide hotline on  0800 567 567.

  • Sleep is vitally important for a student to be able to concentrate in an exam, so spending nights studying is not conducive to good results. Encourage your teen to get eight hours of sleep. If he is having trouble falling asleep, play  a meditation or sleep CD that could help him to control his breathing and thoughts.

  • Teach your 12th grader the power of positive thinking and visualisations. We don’t know the true power of the human brainl. Positive self- talk and creativity may help him through a difficult paper.”Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results,” says James Allen

  • Provide practical support in the form of tutors, study guides, study groups, and assistance from teachers. Even at the last minute a session with a good tutor or a chat with his Maths teacher can provide your child with valuable tips.

  • Remember to celebrate even the smallest success with your 12th grader, looking forward with optimism and enthusiasm.  “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”says Nora Roberts.

Good luck to you all!

By Claire Marketos

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