Exams are stressful - for parents too. Do you sit on the sidelines offering meals and sympathy or start wielding coloured pens to create elaborate revision timetables?
As in most parenting, you’re the expert on your own child - what will motivate to get stuck into revision and what could result in eye rolling resentment. But it can also help to talk to other parents at the same stage and, perhaps, discover a cunning strategy you haven’t tried. We asked parents for their best advice on how to support teenagers during end-of-year exams, GCSEs and A-Levels.
“Two of my children are going through important exams this year. They are both very different, so a mono-approach wouldn’t work. I find the best thing is to encourage, sustain and nurture with my anxious child. A trip to the cinema last night was a nice break.
“For my unmotivated child, all I can do is reinforce all the positives of going to university, but stress that it is not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. It has to come from within.” Lucy
“My tip is to motivate them with whatever works for them. We had a reward of £50 agreed for each A* result for my daughter’s GCSEs. There were £50 notes stuck to the fridge for motivation!” Emma
“Teenagers have enough pressure on them. The main message I want to get across to my three teenagers is that we we love them whatever, that it matters to try their best, but that exams aren’t the be-all and end-all. My wife and I have been chatting with them a lot about family and friends they know who are a complete mixed bag in terms of school successes.” Joseph
“It’s so frustrating when you have a teenager who won’t study and would rather watch cat videos online. Or watch ‘documentaries’ which are ‘relevant to my course’. Sitting down with them while they study, asking them about their revision techniques, supplying snacks and cups of tea. I’m not sure any of it works. It’s got to be an intrinsic motivation.” Wendy
“One thing we’ve learnt with four teenagers is you can’t force them to revise; pushing too much makes them rebel.” Michaela
“The best type of revision is doing past papers and marking them using the mark schemes. It’s a pain but the best way by far. They’re all readily available on websites to print off at home.” Emma
“Get involved. It’s easy for kids to feel overwhelmed by the gravity of what they have to do and what it all means. Help them break it down into small sprints and get them into a rhythm that fits with their lifestyle.My kids are glued to their phones so revision apps are a useful way to incorporate studying into their daily lives – especially ones like Studytracks that combine music and revision.” Jackie
“Even for the most motivated children, revision is really boring. Children don’t always realise that they’re inadvertently procrastinating, nor understand that revision is an active process and not about simply copying out chunks from their books mindlessly. I’ve found the best way to help my 15-year-old daughter is to set aside time when exams are on to learn something new and revise for it myself. That way we can revise together and give each other moral support when the sun is shining and no one wants to be stuck indoors with textbooks. Last year I did a digital marketing diploma when she had her exams.Turn the fact that your children have revision into a learning opportunity for yourself and set them a good example. As well as chivvying them along to get on with the task required, you are inspiring them to consider learning as a lifelong goal and you can also accomplish something useful for yourself.” Lesley
“After much coaxing and encouragement I finally got my son to knuckle down and look at schoolexams.co.uk; a site offering sample GCSE papers and a virtual tutor who breaks down every single question into bite-sized chunks. I was finding the whole ‘have you started your revision yet’ a bit trying as Jack kept putting the inevitable off. I definitely think the key is to look at sample papers and slowly work through them, building confidence ready for the real thing.” Jo
“Children learn differently and it’s important to help them discover the method that suits them best for revision. One of my sons is a visual learner so mind maps and cards work for him, while my daughter is an auditory learner so she records her notes - even as raps - and listens back to them. I think our job is to feed them regularly and turn down the stress levels.” Jez
“Create a comfortable space for teenagers to work, but they still need guidance on how to revise and, most importantly, planning. The key thing is getting them to look at how much time they have (realistically) to give to different subjects and how they intend to study. This is a huge problem as their perception of time is different to ours. We use a wall planner so they can see exactly how much time they have left.” Michaela
“Ask your child how you can help. Have you planned your revision, do you need any help with your plan? How can I support you? Give your child routine and the right environment to work in. The most ineffective way to revise is to read notes for long periods of time. Not much goes in, minds wander and too much time is spent “working” for very little learning. Revision should be active – doing things, so encourage your child to make fact cards, draw mind maps, highlight notes, write essay plans, answer past questions and use online revision websites.
“Don’t let your child work for hours without a break - memory and recall become less and less effective. Encourage your child to revise in sessions of up to an hour, changing topics each session with a break between. It focuses their minds to get a certain amount or task done in a set time, and makes the time spent revising really count. Encourage your children to exit social media for revision time (they can reward themselves at the end of a session with a quick communication frenzy), put phones on silent and move them out of sight. Children should spend half their revision time on past questions and look at mark schemes and examiners’ reports. That is how you will learn how examiners expect you to answer questions, what gains marks and, equally importantly, what does not gain marks.” Frances
A positive home environment
“My daughter was doing A-levels last year at the same time as my twin sons were doing GCSEs. Schools are such exam factories nowadays that I think parents’ most important role is to maintain a de-stress sanctuary. Have lots of nourishing food for teen grazing, sit down together for family meals and, hopefully, some laughter. Have copies of their exam timetables on the fridge so you know what exam each child is sitting and can ask how it went (without doing a pointless re-run).” Mary
“I think it’s more important to inspire your child to do well, instead of pressurising. I encourage my son to review all his revision before bedtime which helps his mind assimilate the information whilst he sleeps, and plenty of weekend sports, activities and video games to ensure home life takes the pressure off him during this stressful period.” Dominic