This week sees the start of the GCSE and AS exams amongst others in the UK and presumably world-wide students will be preparing for exams and feeling the pressure of these. But as a parent how do we cope with the fallout of the exams at home, not only helping our children deal with the stresses and strains of the end of year tests and exams, but also keeping ourselves mentally prepared to deal with the variety of emotions that present from supporting children’s heightened states to maintaining our own internal worries and niggles.
For many parents, as their children prepare for their final exams at school, they are all too aware of the weight that these will play into the future. Parents worry about the amount of work their children are doing, how they are in themselves, whether they are looking after themselves in general, as well as whether their children will get the results they need. However, the exam period can also bring back memories of their own childhood and the exams they sat back then. Where these memories are not particularly good this only adds to the anxiety that parents feel on top of the stress and strains that their children are handling.
In the run up to the exam period, it is therefore important that parents are vigilant to their own states as well as challenging their preconceived ideas and dealing with such memories. If they feel fragile in themselves, they will be less equipped to support their children and may very well compound the issues that start to rear their head at this time.
Critically, realising these very points is an important step in alleviating parental anxiety. Identifying the issue at hand is an important step in being able to manage the situation at hand. But also, importantly, parents need to also understand that it is perfectly normal to experience some anxiety over their children. The key though is to realize that whilst some anxiety is normal, if it is unmanageable or affects a parent’s life detrimentally or anyone else’s around them, then it is time to take stock. Healthy concern appreciates the risks out there – it sees the ideal scenarios and if appreciates where there is some deviation from these but it does not emotionally cripple the person in question, allowing for interrupts to be put in place in a calm and helpful manner.
Parents then during this exam period need to look objectively of any given situation, dealing with their own historical fears whilst remaining attentive to the present demands. They need to question their expectations and be realistic about outcomes but most importantly they need to retain good relationships with their children and stay in tune with them enough to handle any stresses that occur peacefully.
They need to remain patient and in control of themselves in a quiet and constructive manner whilst refraining from policing their children. Instead they can gently encourage and work with their child. Finding out well in advance what is expected of their child, the processes involved and the demands of any given system that their child is in helps considerably with this. Being informed as to suitable strategies that will help and taking the time to understand revision techniques and what resources are available also help parents not so much to then overwhelm their children with this knowledge and toolkit but more so to be armed in readiness if required.
During the exam period children need to be free to do what works best for them. Whilst parents can make suggestions and facilitate opportunities that they may ‘think’ will help, particularly in the latter years of school, the wise parent understands that their children will have their own way of doing things. For instance, some teenagers find the peace and quiet of nigh time study beneficial and may revise better when many parents would consider it too late whilst others may be happier getting up with the lark. Some teenagers will want to be alone and quiet whilst some will want music on and the hubbub while they beaver away. Accepting that we are all different may well alleviate further stresses.
Parents can do a lot not only to help their children but to help themselves too. Eating regular, nutritional meals and drinking enough, particularly together as a family, not only will keep everyone hydrated and nourished but will also facilitate time for conversation to discuss in a relaxed atmosphere any concerns and put forward helpful suggestions in a convivial way. It can also provide an ideal opportunity to help children understand that their best will be good enough and even if good enough isn’t enough in terms of what they are expecting or hoping for, other opportunities will always be round the corner to keep a healthy perspective present.
Encouraging children to take regular breaks, to exercise or to take some time out with friends or family or both is key as well to establishing a healthy environment for learning. There is no substitute for putting the fun back into life particularly when the anxiety stakes are at risk of running high.
Finally, parents need to be on top of their time management at this time. Understanding that children may not be able to participate in the mundane chores or to help out quite as much for this short period can ease disputes considerably.
If parents can take stock of these few points amongst others, they will feel more in control of their own state. By taking responsibility for their own feelings and emotions whilst accepting that it is going to be stressful for the whole family can be the measure of sanity that will help everyone get through.
Wishing all Godspeed and luck in coming weeks. Shine Bright