5 Things Parents Need to Know About Exam Time
It will have been a long time since most parents sat their school exams, so it's easy to forget just how stressful a time it was. So, if your kids are sitting their GCSEs, AS levels, A levels or other exams, here are some handy things to remember - to help your kids get through the exam period, and to help you not go crazy either (from Care for the Family)!
1. Remember to keep some perspective
Children are aware that exams are a big deal - they will have been told this by their teachers, and they will have friends who are stressing out big time about it. Our child's personality will affect how they respond to stress. Some may become over anxious, moody or irritable, whereas others withdraw, procrastinate or pretend the stressful event isn't happening at all.
Try to help them find some perspective. What can you do or say to alleviate some of that stress? What is the bigger picture? What is the worst case scenario and is it really so bad?
2. Remember to encourage, not nag
Of course, whilst some have the tendency to overwork, other children and young people may appear to just not see the importance or urgency of exams. Sometimes they may need some 'encouragement' to motivate them. But there are positive and negative ways to motivate your children.
Firstly, try to avoid nagging. Help them work out a revision plan, breaking the work down into bite-sized chunks, and then help them stick to it. But ultimately they also need to take some responsibility. You can help - but you can't revise, or sit the exam, for them. You can give encouragement wherever possible and gently help them to begin to gain a sense of personal responsibility.
3. Remember to be there as much as you can
During this stressful time, your kids are likely to need more support than usual. Show them in practical ways that you care. It will help to have a listening and sympathetic ear.
Offer reassurance and encouragement frequently. Make practical suggestions, and offer to test them and to help with revision (not all children will want this, but they may well appreciate the offer). Offer lifts to exams and home again afterwards. Encourage healthy eating and keep the fridge well stocked.
Plan ahead, if possible, so that you don't spend nights away with work. Be around as much as you can during this time. Keep disruptions to a minimum and respect your child's need for peace and quiet to study.
4. Remember they will need down-time
Everyone needs to plan in regular breaks as they work or study, otherwise their quality of work will suffer. A good ratio is that for every hour you revise, you take a ten-minute break. But it's also good for these breaks to be very different from work - so if your child has spent an hour on the computer, ten minutes playing a computer game may not be the best way to take a break.
It will also help your child to build in time and space to relax. Something energetic like swimming or going for a walk may be beneficial, as exercise helps mood-boosting endorphins get into our bloodstream.
They will feel better if they know they have 'permission' to relax - so encourage them by telling them they have been working hard and have earned a break. This will help lower their stress levels. A good motto that shows the importance of getting the balance right is 'work hard; play hard'.
5. Remember to make sure they know you love them
During exam times children may feel more insecure than usual. If they know that you place great importance on their performance in exams, they may feel under pressure to do well. Help them have a healthy view of success and failure, and look for opportunities to praise character and effort, and not just achievement.
Remember to tell your kids frequently that you love them - however they do in their exams. Tell them that doing well in exams is only one part of life: there are other things that are more important - like character, integrity, honesty and caring for others.
Let them know they have worth and value beyond any academic achievement. By doing this you will set them free from the weight of expectations, and enable them to face their exams with confidence and courage
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