Tips on managing exams for parents.
Our School Counsellor, Mrs R Good, has some timely advice for parents during this examinations season.
‘Whilst a certain amount of pressure and worry can motivate some students to revise and achieve in exams, the pressure of exams can feel intolerable for others, activating or intensifying existing feelings of anxiety.
Figures from Childline indicate that in 2016/2017 the number of counselling sessions given to teenagers overwhelmed by exam pressure had risen by 11 per cent over two years, and by 21 per cent in one year amongst 16-18 year olds. Many of these would have been preparing for GCSEs and A Levels. Whilst it is arguable that students have become more willing to ask for help, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) UK students experience some of the highest levels of exam related pressure in the world, with schoolwork related anxiety being more prevalent in girls.
There is often a lot riding on exams so it’s not surprising that over the summer term revision and exams are a major cause of pressure for students as well as their parents and families. Parents can become anxious and may feel helpless about how much their children are working, if they are looking after themselves, or whether they will get the results they need. Children can become anxious and irritable, and can have trouble eating, sleeping and focusing. They may become more accident prone, nervous, and either more withdrawn or argumentative. All in all it can be a challenging time.
Providing support is fundamental in helping your child. So what can parents do as the exams get underway?
- It’s useful to remember that revision and exams only go on for a comparatively short time. Accept it’s going to be a pressured time for the whole family. Expect outbursts and try to remain calm.
- Remind your child exams are not the end of the world. Should things not turn out as hoped for, you still love them and there is always a plan B. Reassure your child you love them whatever.
- Try not to nag or make too many demands on your child during exam time. Arguments are counter-productive, only adding unnecessary pressure and distract from revision. Make home life as calm, comfortable and pleasant as possible.
- Make sure your child knows you’re interested in their work. That doesn’t mean you need to become an expert on every topic in every subject they are revising.
- Encourage regular breaks during revision. Watching some TV, reading a magazine, a short walk, or snack provide a change of scenery and activity to alleviate sitting at a desk revising.
- Make sure your child eats healthy snacks regularly, and drinks enough so they don’t become dehydrated – you can always pop your head in to see how they are doing and bring them a drink of water.
- Encourage your child to join family meals, even if it’s a busy revision day – a change of scene for a while from the books and computer is important. Food fuels our bodies and our brains so slow energy release foods are key in helping students feel fuller for longer and prevents ‘sugar spikes’ that can make moods and anxiety worse.
- Encourage your child to take regular exercise. A brisk walk is a good way to relax and can help clear the mind and provides a change of scenery before the next revision session.
- Encourage regular bedtimes and discourage using mobiles, tablets, computers or consoles at least one hour before they go to bed.
- A revision timetable is useful in encouraging a child to be more organised and disciplined about revision. However, do be aware that some children prefer to work in the evenings and start later in the morning or even the afternoon. Some need peace and quiet whilst others work better surrounded by noise and family.
- Plan something nice at the end of the exams. This should be by way of rewarding them for trying their best and not used as bribery.
If, as a parent, you are very concerned speak to your GP. YoungMinds helpline (0808 802 5544) provides advice and support to parents on a range of situations including exam pressure, and offers a free call back service by a qualified mental health professional. Parents may also wish to access Take20 Parent’s Hub which outlines some of the things a parent can do to support their child and open up conversations (youngminds.org.uk). Children and young people can access Childline You Tube channel to watch a series of videos on coping with exams, call Childline’s free confidential helpline (0800 111), or get support from a counsellor online through 1-2-1 chat.
Good luck to students and parents involved in public examinations this year.’
Categories: Priory Post Senior Sixth Form