The pressure on pupils in Year 13 has already begun ahead of their final A level exams next summer. They have had - or soon will have- their mock exam results. For some it will be a confirmation that they are on track for university or further training but for others their results will be disappointing. What is the best approach you can take to encourage them to maintain their studying or even start doing some work?
Even adults have problems with managing their time, so it's no surprise that 18-year-olds do. You can encourage your child to plan their work in one-hour blocks, with a short break. Research shows that taking a short break every 30 minutes is more productive than working for longer stretches. Making small suggestions such as, 'Should we have dinner at 6pm so you can do an hour's work before then after,' can help them structure their time. Coasting along?
If your child has achieved mock grades that are high enough to make them confident they will achieve the same in their final exams, there is a risk they will become complacent. Mock exams rarely cover all the course content so don't allow your child to be lulled into a sense of false security at this stage. Many factors come into play in exams, not least the questions; your child may have been lucky with their mocks so you need to take into account their grades over the term as an indicator of their final result. It's worth talking to their teachers to get a clearer picture.
Low grades and lack of confidence?
If your child needs A and B grades for university and their mock exams fall short of this they can feel demoralised. Try to encourage them because they may only need a few more marks to reach the higher grades. If your child is really struggling – perhaps they are two or more grades below what they need – there are several options.
Educational psychologist Teresa Bliss suggests: 'If your child is taking too many A-levels they might consider dropping one if that is allowed. Three subjects are quite enough for almost any university. Alternatively of course you could employ a tutor.'
But remember that tutors don't have magic wands: at this stage of the academic year it should be possible to improve by one grade, maybe two, but it's unlikely to be able to jump from an E to a B.
They won't study!
This can be a nightmare: your child is able, but lazy. You can see them throwing away the chance of a university place because they simply aren't putting in enough hours. Most parents' reaction is to nag, or scream and shout.
Bliss says: 'At this age it is usually counterproductive for parents to nag. I suggest that parents ask their teenager what they want from them. If they say, "Back off'" then parents should listen. If they say they need support then parents can find ways of offering that.'
But what kind of support works? Psychologist Dr Sandi Mann, psychologist suggests: 'Try some goal setting.'
Ask them what they have to do, whether it's write an essay, catch up on reading, do some research, and how they can manage their time to do this.
Talk to their teachers. Parents' nights in Year 13 are few and far between but there is nothing to stop you having a conversation with their teachers – by phone or in person- without your child knowing.
Teachers want parents to be supportive; if your child has fallen behind the partnership between school and home can be a motivator. A reality check from the Head of 6th form could work wonders compared to nagging by mum or dad.
Social lives and jobs
Many teenagers have busy social lives and part time jobs after school or at weekends. Should they give up the job? Tricky! Maybe there is a case for reducing the number of hours they work during these final few months before the exams.
Bliss comments: 'Most teenagers do far too much anyway,' so focus on what is really important.
Spending two nights a week and a long day at weekends at a supermarket job can take its toll if your child is also struggling to achieve three A grades. If they are struggling with money, one option – if possible - is to help them with an interest-free loan until after their exams when they can start working again.
Many parents bribe their teens when they do exams: 'I'll give you £20 (or £100) for every Grade A', or even, 'I'll buy you a car if you get into university', are not uncommon. But is this right for 17 and 18-year-olds? At this age your child is on the cusp of being an independent, self-motivated learner about to start university or some other training course.
Think about teaching your child that something is only worth doing because there is some material reward: an external motivator. Isn't it better to help them develop their own motivators to deal with life's challenges?
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