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How Can Parents Support Their Children During Exam Season?

Exams can be a challenging time for both children and parents, often accompanied by stress and anxiety. Your child’s normal sleep pattern may be disrupted, they may feel ill, their appetite can be affected, and they may be anxious or have periods of low mood. But there are strategies parents can use to help their children navigate exam-related pressure and also equip them with valuable skills to use when faced with other challenging situations in life…

It’s normal to feel nervous – 

Reassure your child that they are not the only one who will be worried, in fact, it’s a completely natural reaction. It may also be helpful to speak to your child’s school to find out if they have strategies in place to help children who are particularly struggling with stress, for example, mindfulness activities or revision classes.

Establish a positive mindset – 

Try and instil a positive mindset surrounding exams in general. Emphasise to your child that exams are not a measure of their worth, but an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and growth. Encourage them to set realistic goals and focus on personal progress rather than solely aiming for high grades. Reassure them that their efforts and hard work are valued, irrespective of the exam results they get.

Provide reassurance and avoid criticism – 

Create an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their concerns and asking for guidance. Listen to them, acknowledge their feelings and offer advice, checking in regularly to gauge their progress. Congratulate them on what they’ve done already and let them know that failing isn’t the end of the world. Remind them that it’s ok to make mistakes and that learning is a gradual process.

There’s no such thing as a silly question – 

It’s important that your child feels they have people they can go to for advice during this stressful time. Encourage them to ask their teachers for help if there is something they are struggling with – that’s what they are there for! Also, talking to classmates about any problems they may encounter is another channel of support they can utilise.

Provide a quiet and organised environment – 

Designate a quiet and clutter free space for your child to study. A well-lit area away from distractions such as the television and excessive noise will help them to concentrate and take in information more easily. 

Time management and study techniques – 

Help your child to break down complex topics into manageable chunks. Encourage them to prioritise tasks and set realistic goals. Effective time management skills help to prevent procrastination and last-minute panic. Having ample time to revise thoroughly will help your child to approach their exams with confidence.

Encourage healthy lifestyle habits –

A healthy lifestyle plays a vital role in reducing stress and improving cognitive function. Make sure your child eats a healthy and balanced diet, drinks plenty of water, gets enough sleep and exercises regularly. Adequate rest and nutrition will boost their energy levels, enhance concentration and their general wellbeing. It is particularly important that your child has something to eat and drink before an exam, even if nerves are curbing their appetite, to keep them energised and focused.

Make sure they take time out – 

It is important for children to take a break from studying; it can be just as important as revising. Participating in sports, going for a walk, seeing friends, listening to calming music or watching a feel-good film, will provide a healthy balance and help reduce stress.

And relax – 

Practising breathing and relaxation techniques, and taking part in activities such as yoga can help children to stay in the moment and self-regulate. Sensory toys such as stress balls can also be useful in the classroom or on the way to school to help children calm their nervous system.

Tips for during the exam – 

Read instructions carefully: Emphasise the importance of reading things thoroughly before starting each section or question, this will help them to avoid missing crucial details and to understand what is required.

Use keywords: Teach your child to underline or highlight key words or phrases in questions. This can help them stay focused on what the question is asking and ensure they provide a relevant and concise answer.

Practice time management: Encourage your child to allocate a specific amount of time to each question or section in the exam. Remind them to keep an eye on the clock and move on if they’re spending too long on a single question, especially one they are finding challenging to answer. If they move on to one they are more comfortable with, it will build their confidence and when they return to the tricky question they may find it easier to tackle. 

Take breaks: Emphasise the importance of taking short breaks during long exams to help maintain focus and reduce fatigue. Encourage your child to stretch, take a few deep breaths, or close their eyes for a few moments, whatever helps. Yoga is great for breathing and relaxation.

Review and revise: Remind your child to use any remaining time at the end of the exam to review their answers and make any necessary revisions. Remind them to check for errors, clarify any unclear responses, and ensure they’ve answered all parts of each question.

Conclusion –

Most importantly, make sure your child knows that exams are not the be all and end all, and that exam results don’t represent everything that’s wonderful about them as a person. This will encourage them to develop a healthy attitude towards success and failure which will help them not only during exam season, but in all aspects of their life.