Parenting Teenagers

3 A+ tips for getting your kids (and yourself) through exams

Published: 07 Feb 2014
3 A+ tips for getting your kids (and yourself) through exams

Exam time can be one of the most stressful times of the year – for parents! We get anxious about what those exams mean for our kids, and how they’ll perform – especially when they seem to spend all their study time on facebook. And while this post is full of some great exam advice, it’s not for your teen.

Instead, it’s exam advice for you, and how you can support your teen while s/he’s stressed and panicking about exams, pressures, failing, and everything else that can go wrong at exam time (and how you can stay sane at the same time)!

Try these three A+ tips for getting through the exam pressure period:

Ok, so this sounds like advice for your kids (and it probably could be)… but you’ll be surprised how much of a role you play in this. Hear me out and I’m sure you’ll agree.

My eldest daughter was being looked after by grandma when she asked if she could go for a run. She said she needed to train for her district cross-country race. With permission from Nanna, she ran 7kms. The problem was that the district race was the next day! At the cross-country, my teenager tanked! She had nothing.

Most of us readily recognise that cramming doesn’t work. All it does it adds stress to our kids, and to us.

So this tip is a reminder to parents – sit down early with your teens, talk about the upcoming exams, and start some kind of routine to ensure study starts early. By encouraging as little as 30 minutes per day several weeks early, pressure at crunch time will be dramatically reduced.

Helping your child through exam time

Why does it matter for your child to do well? What difference will it make in his or her life? What does your child actually want to do with his or her life?

Darcy spent all of his spare time reading surfing magazines. He lived for surfing. But he wasn’t good enough to become a pro. His parents chatted with him about other aspects of surfing he loved. He decided he wanted to write for the surf magazines he loved to read. Together they agreed that a journalism degree might be a useful way for him to achieve his goal. When he realised that meant doing well in his English and Science exams, he changed his attitude entirely and studied like mad.

Kenneth was a kid who loved music. His parents saw, quickly that even though he could be a great student, he had limited interest in school. They asked him to work hard and achieve a certain grade, and promised that in return they would support his musical pursuits. Kenneth became a musician and composer and loved his life because he was doing what he felt born to do.

If our teens have a ‘why’, they’ll work hard at the ‘what’. Sometimes their ‘why’ will be all about education. Sometimes their ‘why’ will be in another area where they can enjoy purpose and meaning and success.

It’s our job to help them tap into something they can be enthusiastic about – something meaningful and purposeful to them – so they’ll be more willing to study hard if that’s what is required to reach that goal. If they don’t know exactly, that’s fine too. So long as they have some kind of aspiration that gives them a reason to try.

As stress and anxiety build, we stop thinking broadly and expansively. Instead, we begin to panic. Our thoughts are focused on stopping the fear we feel.

These are poor conditions for learning. But unfortunately, often we – the parents! – are partly responsible for creating the stress and anxiety (usually through our nagging).

When we are feeling positive, happy, contented, peaceful emotions, our mind is open to new ideas and concepts. Memory retention is increased. Our brains aren’t focused on fighting and being combative. Instead, they are taking in everything around us. We can be curious, creative, and clever.

Our children are most likely to do well when they know why they’re studying hard – and they believe in it.

Yes, there will still be last minute jitters. There will be nervous waits.

But with a strong ‘why’, and solid preparation from a long way out, there will be less anxiety for you and your teen. Instead, you’ll enjoy a calm, hopeful assurance that your child is working hard.


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