This is the most stressful time of the whole school journey – how can parents best support their children?
Planning can really help here. During holiday times, in the run-up and half term in the middle of exams, make sure that your child isn’t having to choose between fun activities and working.
Claremont Senior School – Claire Martin and Victoria Liggett, Assistant Heads (Teaching and Learning)
If you can plan the family day and their social engagements around providing time for them to revise, it will make it much easier. Perhaps come to an agreement that they work in the mornings, with a prompt start, but the afternoons are for relaxing.
The run-up to exams is often the worst time. Discuss that although exams are important, they are also just a stepping stone and will soon be over. They need to do as well as they can, but not at the expense of their mental or physical health. Reassure them that doing their best is what is important to you.
What is the best way for parents to support kids with revision?
Help them plan a ‘Goldilocks’ revision timetable that is realistic in terms of hours – not too much, not too little, just right. There isn’t such a thing as a one-size-fits-all revision timetable and it doesn’t matter what your child’s friends are doing, it needs to be right for them.
Make sure they include all their subjects – not just the ones they like or the ones they find the hardest. One good suggestion can be to use their lesson timetable as a guide to ensure that subjects are evenly spread. Don’t leave it too long before revisiting subjects. Try and rotate them regularly.
Show an interest in what they are doing, but not so much that they feel stifled. Maintain the usual routine as much as possible. What signs should parents look out for that their child is dangerously stressed?
Watch out for sleeplessness and lack of eating, or any major and unexpected changes in behaviour. A little bit of stress is to be expected and can be a good thing as it can often enhance performance, but it shouldn’t change who they are and how they behave. If they cut themselves off from their friends or you, start refusing to go to school or exhibit behaviour that’s out of character, that may be a sign that the stress has gone beyond ‘useful’ levels.
And what should they do to combat serious stress?
Speak to them if you can about what their specific worries are and talk to the school. Make sure you tell people that you are worried about your child and find out whether they are seeing the same behaviour as you are. The school will be able to offer advice about what to do next and if you are seriously concerned you can always speak to your GP.
How can parents support their child during the actual exam period?
Late night revision sessions are not going to help. Try to encourage a reasonable bedtime. Good nutritious meals and some time spent outside away from the revision when possible is good. Try and encourage them to go outside to offset the hours they will spend sitting and studying – that will help with mood swings.
If they want to talk about how the exam went, that’s great, but many won’t want to talk about it at all. Try to be OK with that! Most importantly, once the exams have started, everyone will feel like the end is in sight.
How can parents look after their own wellbeing at this time – so that they can best support their child?
It can be a very stressful time for parents. I often hear from them how powerless, anxious and sometimes frustrated they can feel at this time. Try and roll with the punches and not allow inevitable self-centred and stressed behaviour get to you too much – it is only for five weeks. Get early nights yourself, relax when you can and, when in doubt, have a glass of wine!
Claremont Senior School, Bodiam, East Sussex
01580 830396 claremontschool.co.uk
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