‘Tis the season not to be jolly – otherwise known as the ‘exam stress season’. It’s like the flu season, but without the cough.
here I am, juggling the very different needs of my three daughters, two of whom
have exams this summer.
are the steps I have found useful in achieving a successful exam stress season.
Let me be clear about what I mean by ‘successful’. I do not define success as
every one of my children achieving straight A* grades in all subjects. I define
success as them getting through the stress of exams safe and well, and being
able to look back satisfied that they gave it their best shot. The rest is for
fate and the public examination boards to sort out.
is a point in my parenting life when I feel I am required to be
unreservedly sympathetic. Some parents may want to tell
their children exams were harder in their day, or had taken on
ten paper rounds before they were out of nappies. Even if these things
were true, I realise this is not the best time to talk about it. Exams are hard
and can be gruelling. I find it helps to acknowledge this and state clearly my
acceptance this is not a great time for teens. I also remind them it will not
last forever, and a long summer break will soon be here – although I don’t
mention results day is right in the middle of it!
you have some knowledge about the subjects your child is studying, it is
tempting to become over-involved in the revision process, but this is not
always helpful in the long term. The objective of this process is for your
child to become an independent learner, so it may be useful to keep this in
mind as you hog the textbooks. Personally, I can be a complete pain in
the neck when my kids are revising a subject which interests me, and I’m sure
this is a constant source of irritation to them, but they humour me
the other hand, don’t assume they will have everything available for the
learning process. Revision skills are taught in most schools these days, but
your teen may not have taken them on board. Therefore, you may want to
encourage them to discover what works for them, and this is a matter of trial
and error. I personally need to write everything down in note form when I am
learning, and I also find it helpful to talk out loud as if I am explaining it
to someone else. Some students find a whiteboard and pens useful, while others
need a huge notebook. If you support them in their chosen revision method, at
least it shows you respect the process and consider them mature enough to
handle their own revision. If they can revise according to their own style it
will be more productive, and perhaps even enjoyable, for them. They will NEVER
admit this, however.
perfectly structured family life is, in my experience, almost impossible to
obtain. I can, however, see the benefits of everyone knowing what is happening
and when. The timetables for public examinations are published well in advance
and shared by schools and colleges. As soon as you get yours, pop the dates into
your calendar or simply pin the timetable up in the kitchen where everyone can
see it. That way you can plan family events without clashes.
A revision timetable really is essential, but can and
should be flexible. Subjects can be broken down into sections or topics which
can each be allocated a ‘session’. There should also be scheduled
are some of the reasons I find a timetable useful:
It makes it easy to appreciate the quantity of work needed. Teens approaching
public examinations for the first time sometimes underestimate the quantity of
material they will have to plough through. This can lead to a last-minute
It gives a psychological boost to teens who are floundering and overwhelmed,
because it provides a clear path and much needed structure.
It shares out time between subjects, so your teens don’t become bogged down in one
subject to the detriment of another.
It can give a sense of achievement if they stick to it.
If they don’t stick to it, this can give you or them an idea of how far behind
they have got.
thoughts on this subject are very clear: if you are leaving your teen at home
to revise, make sure there is plenty of reasonably healthy food in the house.
This will prevent them from either starving to death or ordering several pizzas
using your credit card details while you are out.
know the official advice is to feed your child healthy brain-enhancing food at this time, and I feel this is
absolutely the right thing to do. I also know there are moments in your life
when you really have to have a chocolate biscuit, and halfway through an
algebra equation is very likely to be one of those moments. So, once again, I
try to reach a compromise. This is really not the time to have a blazing row
over organic wholegrain crackers and humus.
Help with exam stress
is no escaping the fact teens are put under a lot of pressure around exam time.
Some will sail through with no problems, but others will struggle, and a few
will become seriously affected by mental health issues.There
is plenty of help available if you are worried about your child’s exam
stress. If you feel your child is really not coping with exams, and their
physical or mental health is deteriorating, you should contact your GP, who
will be able to give you some further advice. Organisations like ChildLine and
Mind can also offer support and guidance.Exam sympathyExam supportExam structureExam suppliesHelp with exam stress