As the test season approaches, children across the UK will be experiencing all of the nerves, worry and stress that comes with preparing for what can be life-changing exams. Recent research By Nestlé Waters revealed the extent to which children are feeling the pressure, 84% of 10-14 year olds in the UK are feeling stressed. Pressure at school is listed as the main source of stress for 63% of those, therefore it is important that we do what we can to help manage children's concerns during these vital educational years. With figures like those, chances are your child could be one of them. So here are some parent tips:
Revise like an athlete
The key to stress-free revision is thinking like an athlete. Revision can seem completely overwhelming when you think that you have to practise everything. If you were an athlete though you would not practise your whole routine/ match over and over again you would identify your weak spots and do focused practise on them - your passing, your serve, your jump...
As a parent the best support you can give your child is to help them identify those weak spots. You can do this from working through practise papers, talking about the areas your child is most concerned about and feedback from school. Any additional online programmes that your child uses for learning will normally provide you with some matrix of topics that your child is finding tricky too.
The next step is all about planning; blocking out time for focused practise on each individual area. Sit down with your child and give them ownership of what they are going to revise and when, whilst encouraging achievable goals and including plenty of breaks.
Celebrate the effort
One of the main contributors to exam season stress is the fear that by not succeeding your child will be letting you down. This worry and anxiety can manifest itself and become a serious distraction for children, which can have a negative impact on their performance.
A good way of avoiding this kind of worry is by focusing on the effort and practise that your child is doing. Celebrating the successes they achieve during their focused practise revision and reminding them if they can't do something - "they can't do it yet". Let them know how proud you are of the progress they are making. This encourages children to work as hard as they can in preparation, but doesn't overwhelm them with talk of the end results. Exams are just a chance for the children to show off how much they know. If we talk about that then some of the pressure of the exam day itself will be lifted.
Often, with a child under pressure and a parent wanting the absolute best for them, tempers can flare and arguments can result! If you feel your child isn't doing enough; it's often because they feel lost and don't know where to start. Help them to break everything into very small tasks so they can start seeing small successes and boost confidence.
Avoid using accusatory, overly-critical language like, "If you don't work harder, you are going to fail", try approaching with questions to encourage your child to see the problem by themselves. "How is your revision going?", "What are your tricky spots?", "If you have 30 minutes to look at something today what do you think would make the most difference?"- these are all good questions to ask.
Inevitably, there will be children disappointed with their exam results and it is important for you to be supportive. Stress and reiterate that there are always options, whether your child achieves well or poorly, there are paths that can be taken either way.
So sit with your child and discuss these options together. It could involve a different school/college/university, or it could be looking in to the possibility of re-takes. Research is important at this stage, but remember there are always options!
Take time off!
At times, if tension is building, or your child is starting to feel the strain a little too much - the best thing to do can be to take a step away from the exam preparation for a while! Find something relaxing and enjoyable to do and completely forget about exam preparation. The Wildlife Trusts highly recommend spending time outdoors and around nature and water to relieve stress, so perhaps take time out and visit some local scenery - like your local park or woods. However if there is a timetable in place make sure that it is still possible to cover everything in time.