A phone line and an online chat service set up to offer help and advice to primary school-age children are busier during exam times, new figures show.
The Singapore Children's Society (SCS), which runs Tinkle Friend, has told The Straits Times there is a jump in the volume of calls and chats from March to May (when pupils prepare for and sit mid-year assessments), then September and October (when year-end exams are held) as compared with the rest of the year.
The society has observed an average of 35 calls a week to its hotline during those months, from 24 during the quieter months.
Its online chat service sees 76 chats a week during the busier months, as compared with 46 a week during other months.
The Tinkle Friend services are manned by trained staff and volunteers and offer support and advice to distressed children, especially in situations when their parents or caregivers are not available.
Ms Ann Hui Peng, director of SCS' Student Service Hub (Bukit Merah), said it is "hardly surprising that children feel more stressed and would contact us more during those months that coincide with the exam and results period".
Percentage of calls to the Tinkle Friend helpline that were from kids who felt lonely and bored
Percentage who called with regard to academic matters
Percentage who called to talk about peer-related issues
She added that young children "are still picking up and refining their coping skills" in response to stressors such as time management and dealing with exam pressure.
Advising parents to recognise their child's efforts instead of focusing on results, Ms Ann said: "Parents can help by not getting caught up in the academic rat race."
Most calls to the line - 55 per cent - are from children who feel lonely and bored.
Other main issues are academic fears - such as exam results and juggling school commitments - and peer-related worries such as difficulties in making friends.
Volunteers and staff let the child share his or her feelings and may suggest tips to cope with stress or develop social skills.
For those who feel bored, the conversations sometimes revolve around the latest cartoons or family holiday plans. Other times, the volunteers tell jokes or read stories to cheer them up.
Ms Goh Li Shan, a counsellor at SCS' Student Service Hub (Bukit Merah), said: "We do not tell the child what to do, but rather we speak with the child like how a friend would and ask them for their opinions on what could be done next."
Ms Ann said: "We do see more children left under the supervision of their families' domestic helpers or extended family members. However, due to cultural and language gaps, they find themselves unable to relate to the available adult figures around, thus leading them to contact our services."
She encouraged parents to be more attentive towards their children. "Parents should communicate more with their children, observe what their children are interested in and encourage their children to take an interest in a wide range of activities and hobbies."