Testing times: How to deal with exam stress – your own and your kids’
By Helen Lami director of Academic Summer
Over the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of teenagers across the UK will be feeling the pressure as they sit their final GCSE and A-Level exams. It can be an extremely tense time, and not just for students. A recent poll conducted by the BBC found almost a quarter of parents said their own mental health had been affected by the pressure of their children’s exams.
So, what can parents do to battle the GCSE and A-Level blues? Here are my five tips for bringing harmony to the exam period.
Stress is a fact of life but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer our children ways to better control it. Mindfulness meditation is a brilliant way to relieve anxiety and has been proven to be particularly effective during exam times. There are countless resources online to show you the basics of this type of meditation, something which can take as little as 15 minutes per day. Best of all, you can do it together so you both share in the relaxation. It will also give your child a valuable tool for self-calming in other stressful situations.
Create a study zone
You need to set some boundaries within your home so designate an area where your child can regularly go to revise. It’s important that this ‘zone’ isn’t in their bedroom – a place that should be exclusively for relaxation and sleep. Make sure the rest of the family respects the study area and that revising ends at least two hours before going to bed – during which time you and your child should try and enjoy some valuable down-time.
Don’t forget the fun
As the old saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so make sure your child isn’t spending every waking hour cramming and find regular opportunities to do relaxing things together. You could even splash out on a spa day mid-way through exams and pay for your child to have a massage as a reward. If that’s out of your price range, then why not just go swimming together for a couple of hours each weekend, one of the best exercises there is for controlling anxiety.
Don’t be too pushy
Most parents want their child to do the very best they can but it’s important that you don’t push them too hard and create added stress for everyone. Be available and be helpful but ultimately, revising for exams and getting a good grade at the end is your child’s responsibility. GCSEs and A-Levels are a perfect opportunity for young people to learn the value of self-reliance and hard work. Getting through exams on their own merits will also do wonders for your child’s self-esteem.
If you feel your child is really struggling, then rather than taking all the responsibility on yourself, some last-minute private tuition might be the best option. It won’t cost the earth and there are plenty of helpful contacts in your local Family Grapevine magazine to help you find the best person. Ask your friends and other parents or speak to your school for a recommendation. There’s no shame in seeking extra help if it’s really needed.