By Claire B
Most of us will remember what it was like to sit our exams at secondary school; some of us will have taken them in our stride, whereas for others they will have been a time of worry and stress. For those parents with children currently in Years 10 to 13, the public exams will no doubt be part of your current home life. Nowadays schools provide students with lots of support and resources in preparation for, and during, exams. But how can we, as parents, best support our children as they go through them?
We thought it might be helpful to pull together some key messages and resources for parents as the exams approach. Obviously, every young person is different and what works for one may not work for another, but here are some things you could try:
- Approach the whole time with a positive, relaxed interest – do not place extra pressure on your child with your own expectations. Ask them how revision is going, or how they felt a particular exam went, but don’t make any judgments or demands.
- Read through any material that the school sends you on the exams. It can be good to understand what revision is expected and what resources your child can access. Knowledge is key!
- Let your child know that they can express their feelings to you, whatever they are. And really listen to them – you can help more if you understand what their worries are. They might want solutions, or they may just want to vent their frustrations; either way just being there to listen can help.
- Support your child to keep on top of their work and feel in control. Some children may be good planners and self-motivated, others might appreciate some help organising their revision. In any planning, be realistic with what your child can achieve.
- If possible, help your child to create a comfortable, quiet study area at home.
- Encourage them to take breaks from their work – outside if possible but even a break to watch a film may help. Whatever they find enjoyable, and relaxing is a good break.
- Really step into the role of carer – making sure they are getting enough sleep, eating, and drinking well.
- Let your child know that it is natural to be worried about exams; but notice if the worry seems to be overwhelming them. This might be trouble sleeping, physical pains, or a change in appetite or behaviour.
- Know where to go to get extra support if they seem unable to cope, for example a named member of school staff or your GP.
- Don’t expect your child to step-up with chores at home, if possible, try to share the responsibilities amongst other family members for this brief time.
- Remind them that exams are just assessing one area of what they have learnt. As a person, they are made up of so much more than this.
- Plan a treat for them for after exams. It does not have to be expensive, just something to mark the end of this time and to show you are proud of them.
As one of my TV heroes, Ted Lasso, said “For me, success is not about the wins and the losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves…”
Importantly, do not forget about yourself. You can only support your child if you look after yourself too. Keep up with your hobbies and interests and see your friends and family; whatever helps you to feel positive. Recognise your own signs of stress and ask for help if you need it. You will then be more likely to cope well with the inevitable mood swings and outbursts!
Know that you are not alone – many other parents are currently experiencing the same as you. If you need extra support, there are online forums and networks where parents can support one another. However, it is important to try not to compare yourself with other families – your child, their needs and their abilities are unique to them, and you know them best.
You will find lots of helpful information on the internet, but here are some useful links about supporting your child through exams:
And finally, stay positive, it isn’t forever – the exams will soon be over!