The year-end exams may be a little way off, but the earlier you start the preparation the better your child will be able to perform well.

Exams are a serious stress zone – not only for the youngster who has to sit the exam, but also for the parents.  Every parent wants their child to do well, but doesn’t want to put them under unnecessary pressure.  There’s a fine line between helping and interfering – and with teenagers that critical point can depend on the current state of their hormones!

Trying to get the average teenager focused on exams is a real challenge when there are so many other distractions – sport, learning to drive, a part-time job to supplement their allowance – and, of course, the attraction of the opposite sex.

Teenagers sometimes develop one or more problem areas too – eating disorders, depression or drug experimentation – which can result in a lack of interest in school generally.  If you recognise your child is suffering with any of these then you should suggest getting them some help, but don’t be surprised if they don’t want to know.  The best you can do is to let them know you’re there for them if they need you.

What you can do to help

The practical:

  • Give them healthy, balanced nutrition – including snacks and pack lunches
  • Make sure they have a study space that is quiet and without distractions
  • Encourage them to get eight hours sleep – at the least when it’s school the next day
  • Encourage exercise – healthy body, healthy mind! If they don’t play sport, what else might they do to get the heart pumping; exercise produces a real feel-good factor too.
  • Do a deal about social events during the week, especially as exams get nearer. This is likely to more of a negotiation than imposing ‘rules’; after all they are young adults and will respond better if treated as such.
  • If you see them struggling and you can’t help with a subject, suggest they seek help from a teacher or someone who has the right background knowledge.

The emotional:

  • Let them know you’re there if they need support, someone to bounce ideas or problems off or simply to have a moan.
  • Don’t impose unrealistic expectations on them. You might want them to be top of the class, but everyone can’t be first so don’t communicate that you expect perfection.  Let them know you will be happy if they give it their best shot.
  • Make sure they do something that makes them feel good at least once a week – so they have something to look forward to.
  • Give them praise for successes and encourage them to see ‘failures’ as opportunities to learn.
  • Don’t overreact if there’s the occasional temper tantrum – exam stress can make the ‘blue touch paper’ very sensitive!

Finally – you’ll almost certainly get it wrong sometimes.  Your gentle reminder will be perceived to be constant nagging, their inability to do household tasks while still managing to pursue an active social life will cause frustration, but as long as they know you love them things will work out in the end.

If your child needs some revision support in Maths or English, take a look at the Exemplar programme.