We all know the signs: irritability, not sleeping well, headaches or tummy aches, negativity, low mood. With the exam season upon us, our Assistant Head (Pastoral), Leah Goodey, shares some advice for parents about supporting children through the coming weeks…
The exam season can be particularly tricky for everyone, students and parents, as stress levels rise. Our Year 11 and 13 students are preparing to sit their public examinations. Years 7 to 10 will have internal exams and Year 12 will have mocks starting on Monday 10 June. Students are probably feeling under some pressure to do well, and whilst it may be true that there is only so much that you can do as a parent to help them with revision, there are other ways that you can support your child through this period.
Having a revision plan can make the task feel less daunting. At school, we encourage students to put together a revision timetable and aim to stick to it. This stops them from revising material they already know and ensures they get through everything they need to. It can also give a feeling of progress and achievement as they see how far they have come with their revision. The plan should take into consideration when the student works best: are they a morning person, or do they need to start working a bit later in the day?
Your child will need a calm, quiet place where they can spread out, put up posters and make notes. If your child has younger siblings this could be particularly important. Their bedroom might be the best place for this, but some children work better in a different area. Could they have a spot at the dining room table for a few weeks, or in the study? If the weather is nice, they might want to work outside.
It is good to agree with your child in advance how you are going to support them with distractions, and this will vary depending on your child’s age. Phones could be switched to ‘do not disturb’ during revision sessions, or perhaps left in another room. Maybe you could have an understanding that gaming will be limited to a certain amount of time each day. Some children concentrate better when listening to music, and some things which may be a distraction to us as adults, may not be to children. That said, calls, messages and social media are distracting for everyone!
4. Rest & Relaxation
It is really important that the plan makes allowances for time to rest, relax and get away from work. Time off will boost wellbeing and productivity too. Balance is important, and too much of either could affect success. If you are thinking of having a family day out, build it into the plan and make adjustments where necessary. Some students are motivated by a treat, an incentive to get through the work. This could be something as simple as a film in the evening, their favourite dinner or a new book at the end of the week.
5. Eat well
The exam period can be a time when children break their normal eating habits, possibly losing their appetite or eating more snacks and sugary foods as they revise. Try to help your child to keep their diet balanced. There are lots of foods which can boost memory and focus (e.g. oily fish, eggs, fresh fruit). Staying hydrated is particularly important too. Having a good breakfast in the morning during exam week will help students maintain concentration through exams.
6. Sleep well
The recommended number of hours sleep per night for a teenager is eight to nine. Encourage your child to get enough sleep, even if this means going to bed later and getting up later. If you don’t already have an agreement about keeping devices downstairs or out of bedrooms overnight, now might be a good time to consider it. We can all have problems falling asleep or getting back to sleep, especially during times of stress. A good bedtime routine will certainly help. For those who wake too early or in the middle of the night, reading to quieten the thoughts or having a pad to write them down might help.
7. A calm and understanding presence
One of the best things you can do for your child during the exam period is to keep things as normal, routine and calm as possible. They’ll probably like the thought of you being around to help, but might not like you too close. Help your child keep the exams in perspective; how they do in them won’t define them for the rest of their lives. Reassure your child that what really matters is that they do their best.
Revision guides with everything you and your child need to know about the forthcoming exams, revision strategies, template revision timetables, and the exam timetables will be available on our Digital Learning Spaces for all our students from Monday.
Leah Goodey, Assistant Head (Pastoral)