If you’ve landed on this blog, then the chances are that you have a child or young person that is finding their way through the tricky season of exams – be it GCSEs, A-Levels or similar. It can be a stressful and worrying time for them and for you too. And, as parents, you want to know the best way of supporting your child through exams and how to make it as easy on them as possible.
Firstly, it is important to point out that some stress, anxiety or nerves during the exam period is completely normal and mostly helpful, as it can improve with focus and concentration for short periods of time. For some young people, the stress and anxiety can take over and you may look for further support. See the ‘Spot the Signs’ section of this blog for details on who you may want to contact.
Prepare for Studying with your Child
Most children will be able to study better when they have a quiet place to do so within your home. Ideally, this would be away from their bedroom where there are many distractions and away from any younger siblings. Talking of distractions, you may want to consider limiting the use of mobile phones and other devices. You could consider a parent control app or the built-in screen time controls.
It is worthwhile sitting with your child to create a revision timetable. Ideally, they will tackle different subjects/topics in manageable chunks of half an hour to an hour. HeadsUp have created a blank revision guide to get you started 👉TIMETABLE
Encourage your child to have regular, short breaks of 5 – 10 minutes in between chunks of revision. This will help to digest the information learned in the last revision session. They could go for a quick walk, make a drink or have a chat.
A relaxed home is extremely helpful in allowing your child to study. So, just for this short time, try to let the little things go at home, like keeping a tidy bedroom or emptying the dishwasher. After all, your child has enough on their plate at the moment (excuse the pun!).
Liaise with the school
The school should have issued some sort of revision content for each subject. If you are in doubt as to what your child should be revising, then contact the school, subject lead or teacher and ask for clarification.
Similarly, if your child has any additional needs that need to be considered in the exams, ensure that you have discussed this with the school and the necessary arrangements are in place.
Plan for Longer Breaks and Activities
As well as the shorter breaks, plan in some longer breaks where your child could meet up with friends,
participate in some exercise or sport activity or watch some TV. Doing something pleasurable releases the happy hormone, dopamine, in the body and we feel good about ourselves and reduce our levels of stress.
Healthy Eating and Sleep
Having regular, balanced meals full of the vitamins and minerals will support high levels of brain activity required for revision. Eating junk food, sweets or takeaways may give the quick release of energy and satisfaction, but in the long run, it is likely to make your child feel lethargic.
Similarly, drinking plenty of fluids is vital for maintaining high levels of concentration – although steer clear of fizzy drinks containing high levels of sugar or drinks that contain caffeine.
The value of sleep cannot be emphasised enough as this will help concentration levels and memory power during the waking hours. It was also help regulate mood and emotions. Official guidelines state that teenagers between the ages of 16 -18 years should still be getting between 8 – 10 hours per night.
The exam period may be a stressful and worrying for time for you too, as you undoubtedly want you child to do well and achieve their best. However, try not to project your feelings on to your child and add the pressures they are already feeling.
Be realistic with your child
Being overly optimistic can add to the pressure to do well and achieve what may not be possible. Whereas being overly pessimistic can make your child feel like it is worthless to try. Remain calm, positive and encouraging.
Don’t compare your child with others
Instead, show your child how proud you are for their efforts, whatever the outcome of the exams may be.
Spot the Signs
Occasionally, the pressure and fears of exams can become too much for a child. You may notice a change in behaviours, emotions or physical changes, such as weight loss. The NHS has a full list of signs and symptoms to be aware of and refer to if you are worried.
Being open and ready to listen. Acknowledging and validating a child’s thoughts and feelings can make a huge difference to a young person.
Our RESOURCES PAGE is full of activities that can support your child to understand and cope with their feelings, worries and anxieties.
If you need further professional help, you may be able to talk to your GP. Alternatively, you could get in touch with other NHS services.
- School nurse (contact can be made through your school),
- CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services)
Or one of these organisations: