It's that time of year again, the build up to exam and assessment time in schools. This impacts young people in very different ways. We would ideally like exam time to be a smooth , positive experience for students. However, if it does evoke concerns for you as a parent or difficult emotions for young people, please read ahead for tips on how to try and tackle exam related stress and those 'oh so difficult' feelings of apprehension, anxiety and bubbles of fear that may prove troublesome!
1)Keep a realistic perspective &
Celebrate all successes small or large : As we know, what we feel will be extended to our children, hence our attitudes to exams will be picked up on by our teenagers and children. As parents, we can reflect back to our own experience of exams, just gently checking in on emotions we have about them and our own experiences. Our attitudes and experiences can be passed on unknowingly, so explore and get a handle on your own perceptions. It helps to remember the exams are one part of the academic year and work throughout the whole year should be celebrated with your child. Remember all aspects of the curriculum count , your child may flourish in some subjects more than others and this makes them individuals . Seek out and nurture your child's strengths and passions, work with them and their natural talent. Encourage all aspects of their personality such as leadership, caring for others, seeking knowledge and asking questions, learning about the world around us , debating and discussing topics close to their hearts. So many qualities about our children cannot be measured easily, so keep this in mind and point this out to them .Our children are much more....remind them that they are amazing simply for being themselves and give them a boost to feel proud of who they are! This will help them to flourish and in turn give them confidence to tackle exams with excitement rather than trepidation! This lifts pressure off the exam itself.
2) Relationships & Talking...
take time out with your teen or child : Take at least ten minutes everyday to check in with your child or teen emotionally , find out how they are , what is going well , what is difficult, how are they feeling? Use your fabulous parent and guardian intuition to sense if they are telling you the whole story or the truth about their feelings . Let them know they can talk to you and share their deepest worries and anxieties as you understand and want to help.. this will comfort them, knowing you are there even if they currently don't feel like chatting much. If they do not want to talk, it may not be the right time, try not to take it personally. There are other ways to give opportunity to talk, maybe just plan an activity you both enjoy and this will give them a break from the thought of exams and school. Building on your relationship will have numerous benefits. Encouraging your teens and children to express how they feel is healthy and as adults we also need to demonstrate an openness and honesty. If you can be true to your feelings and find healthy ways to cope, then this will assist your children. Make sure as a parent you also get time out for you and the support you need, taking care of yourself as a parent will make you more emotionally available to your teens and children , especially during exams.
3) Give buckets of reassurance, explaining that nervousness, fears and difficult emotions are all natural, this is a relief for young ones to know they are not alone in this : remind your child it is completely natural to feel these things around exam times and it helps to talk about them , ask them where they feel the anxiety and fear, the butterflies in their stomach and the physical feeling we get when something important is going to happen . Our bodies will tell us what is wrong if we listen to it. Once we acknowledge the feeling and express it, the energy of emotion tends to dissipate and clear. Calming visualisation can really help, walk them through the event of the exam, explaining that often the feeling is worse than when the exam takes place as they will be in the moment . Use relaxation techniques and taking calming breaths - do this activity with your child at a time that is convenient for you both. Stress that these feelings will flow and go - they are completely natural to feel and its ok!
4) Make revision fun, emotions spark memory ! Find out your child's best learning style - are they good listeners, work well by seeing something visually in the form of a diagram or through demonstration or are they kinaesthetic and have to practise by doing the work physically . Make revision into games , and see what works for your child. Discuss this with your child's teacher for hints and tips!
Things that evoke humour, a feel good feeling and emotion will be remembered more efficiently. Do you remember that one teacher who made a difference to you at school? If you think back, was the teaching fun, explained in great story telling, felt safe to listen to and captivated your attention? When the learning is emotive it helps us remember and uses our senses and imagination. Be creative to help revision in a way that suits your teen or child. Ask what they think works best?
5) Encourage Self -Belief and bring out their inner life warrior ! Young people & Children have the capacity to achieve and do their very best , with the right support, motivate them by reminding them how well they have done. Finding small examples of something they have achieved or overcame will remind them of their capabilities. Mirror their strengths back to them and hold them in high esteem and this will help them to feel like they can handle challenges better. Use simple affirmations with them so they can say to themselves " I can do this!" Believe in them!
6) They Shine Their Light Bright: Children need to be able to shine and know their potential , this is being able to feel safe and calm with a quietly confident inner knowing . Build on their inner knowing with positive words of encouragement, celebration of small and big successes but ultimately , simply remind them how much they are loved and valued and what they mean to you as much as you can ...........they are awesome - so don't forget to tell them.
Sleep Well, Eat Well, Keep the fun times and laugh with your children......that is both you and your child, remember you are a parent doing a fantastic job! Give yourself credit too!
Tips taken from the book ' Young Life Warriors' - soon to be available on Amazon - a guide for helping parents and young people thrive in the times we live in !
Lisa-Jayne Maltby is an Integrative & Humanistic Therapeutic Counsellor (MBACP & UKCP) who works in private practice and agency settings in Hampshire. She works with Young people, Parents and Individual Adults and has a background in School Counselling ( both private and secondary state schools ) in the UK and Internationally. Specialises in working with individuals experiencing Bereavement, transition and change, Post trauma work and a variety of emotional and psychological challenges, helping people for over 16 years.