SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting
Unlocking Happiness for Me & My Child During the Exam Period
In the midst of the dreaded exam period, we often plunge into the world of textbooks, tuition, and mock tests. More practice equates to better preparation, right? That may be true sometimes, but it also contributes to unhealthy levels of stress for both parents and children. I choose to break free from the anxiety and embrace this exam period — and my kids — with a smile.
“Mum’s going jogging. Who wants to join me?” I asked.
“Can I cycle?” “Can I rollerblade?” “Can I skate-scooter?”
The three younger kids each had a preferred mode of transportation and I enthusiastically welcomed them to join me. I was feeling lethargic, and knew that if I did not get moving, my mood would nosedive by dinnertime. And I would be that grouchy mama I didn’t want to be.
We came back panting, sweating, and laughing. Happy hormones had been activated in under 30 minutes, and that kept our moods up through dinner and till the kids went to bed.
Physical activity is a natural booster of happy hormones. A shot of endorphins and serotonin straight into our system creates a feel-good experience for any individual.
It may seem counterintuitive, especially during the exam period. Because most parents assume that the more academic work done, the better prepared a child is for their finals. Yet, research shows better memory retention when learning is associated with positive emotions.
So, let’s stop the dread of exams and enjoy the exam period with three scientific strategies for a happier parent and child.
1. Get Physical – Sweat for Endorphins and Serotonin
Truth be told, the older we get, the more mental obstacles we create for ourselves when it comes to exercising! Ignore the ‘reasonable’ excuses and ‘valid’ reasons to laze in your comfort zone. Instead, start a culture where movement becomes a natural part of your family’s lifestyle.
The fastest way to trigger positive hormones is any activity that raises your heart rate in the shortest time. For families that have not made physical activity a habit, what are you waiting for?
You’d be amazed at the stamina it takes for a five-minute game of tag, a focused swim, or actually ‘running’ an errand. Not only does it give our eyes a break from screen time, it ensures we maintain healthy circulation. Plus, you get to choose any activity — and it’s free!
Set aside 30 to 60 minutes a week and call it Family Playtime (avoid the word ‘exercise’ if it conjures a negative image for you). Decide on a fun activity together. It could be football at a nearby field or a sprinting match to see who’s the fastest in the family. The aim is to enjoy movement!
After a weekly routine sets in, increase the frequency if you can. In my family, this is such an effective therapy as a mood stabiliser that we engage in sports at least three times a week, normally just before dinner. I often use different physical activities as a reward after the kids complete their work for an additional dopamine rush.
More Ideas for Family Playtime
- The younger ones won’t say no to a game of hide-and-seek, Simon Says, or competitive monkey bars. The options are endless.
- Suggestions to get older kids moving include dodgeball, volleyball, and badminton. Choose physical activities they are keen on and be mindful to add generous doses of positive encouragement while playing.
- For teenagers, looking good is often a priority. So “shall we tone our muscles?” or “let’s get a healthy tan as we explore the park on bicycle” may be effective angles for an initial buy-in. And, if at first you don’t succeed, try again, or try Strategy Two.
2. Loving Moments – Bond for Oxytocin
The love hormone is the other secret chemical we often forget to trigger. Releasing oxytocin only requires another person. Picture a mother nursing her child — there is such profound connection and comfort for both. Yet, it seems the older our kids grow, the less we connect physically.
Cuddles connect without any need for words. It could be a quick hug when they return from school, holding hands in the mall, a simple hand massage while watching TV, or a longer back rub with essential oils. A loving caress communicates affection and ignites feelings of inclusion.
Another opportunity to inject oxytocin is after a disagreement. I initiate all reconciliations with an embrace as I apologise for my harsh words and angry tones. That always opens up meaningful conversations to understand the other’s point of view because it amplifies trust.
(See also: LEARN ABOUT THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES)
Go on regular dates with your child. One-on-one time is great for support, building quality relationships, and clearing any unresolved issues. (You don’t have to call it a ‘date’ if it feels uncomfortable.)
Speaking of dates, parents can get so caught up with their work or caregiving roles that many forget to build their romantic relationship. When did you last gaze into your spouse’s eyes with the intention to feel their emotions or communicate yours? It’s powerfully uplifting! And don’t forget — couples who are on the same page make better parents too.
3. Strategise Wins – Celebrate Achievements for Dopamine
How did you feel the last time you won a bet, a game, or a competition? Guess what? The feel-good chemical that automatically surges through our entire body can be staged! This third strategy just requires a little bit of creativity and plenty of intentional thought.
Plan achievable targets such that your child experiences how good it feels to accomplish a win. Many parents set goals they assume are easy, but that may be only from an adult’s perspective. Setting children up for success requires us to view the goal through their lenses.
Memorising the seven times-table may be an easy task for me, but could take my child an entire week. The golden rule is to always set their first attempt up for an easy win. That’s what removes the inertia to try. Most children do not even try because they have no confidence in their ability to succeed.
So, lower your standards and start celebrating their wins. Enthusiastically! Once I won a bronze trophy and was so uplifted when my dad made a big deal out of it. While I was mourning the loss of silver, he was applauding my success. I will always remember how he made me feel and that’s what I intentionally create for each child.
The genuine support and cheer of a proud parent anchors milestone memories of success. Create such a reservoir that they have an abundance of their successes, because that builds up their inner confidence.
More Winning Tips
Keep in mind that success is different for each child, because everyone is at different starting points.
- For a seven-year-old who dislikes homework, completing a page is worth celebrating. Praise them for their efforts at persevering.
- Give the 12-year-old (who loves their screen time) the experience of being a champion for completing their exam revision. Reward them with a pre-agreed-upon one-hour gaming session. Then praise them again for putting the device away when the time is up — that’s another accomplishment!
- The teen who struggles with self-esteem will appreciate praise for patiently helping a younger sibling with their work, taking the initiative to clean up a portion of their room, or attempting to bake cookies for the family.
We ourselves may not have been raised in environments that openly recognised our successes. However, teaching our children to set realistic goals by breaking them into bite-sized wins makes the entire process a lot more enjoyable and sustainable.
Which strategy do you like the most and want to start making a family habit? Best wishes for a happier exam period!
Author of “The Naked Parent”, founder of Mum Space, and mother to five amazing children, Junia is a respected thought-leader in the parenting space. Recognised for empowering parents and kids with her 21st-century parenting model for over a decade, she now brings her ‘Modern Asian Mother’ expertise and experience to this exclusive SingaporeMotherhood column.
Featured image: jcomp on Freepik
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