Exam time … Not a phrase that most parents relish! In any family, exam time can add extra stress and pressure to each member of the family. It is not only the young person taking the exam that is impacted so it is important to keep some thoughts in mind which may support both ourselves as parents and our children during this time. Here are our suggestions to help you and your young student experience a less stressful exam time:
- Do you remember what it was like when you were taking exams yourself? Most of us probably needed some space and didn’t want to get asked too many questions after each exam. With this in mind, try to provide the calm environment your young person needs to study and relax in.
- Offering this space to one child may have impacts on other children in the family, especially if they are younger. Try to spend time outside with younger children and organise some play dates for them if you can. You’ll have the school summer holidays to organise more time together as a family.
- Try to stay calm. Sometimes it can feel almost like we’re the ones taking the exam! We worry constantly and watch every move our children make; checking what they eat, if they’re sleeping enough, if they’re watching too much TV, if they have revised and studied enough. It is important that we support our children to plan and organise their own time. They can’t study all of the time, relaxation is also important in achieving results.
- If you feel concern that your young person has no interest in studying, remember that your relationship with your child is much more important than any exam result. We want our children to believe in themselves and to trust that they can do well. Help them to understand that exam results are not a reflection of who they are, but that they are just the way of our world, so exams are something that we need to do as well as we can. Let them know that you are proud of them no matter what the outcome. Trust in your child’s ability, they will find their own way in the world and they might not find their future path through academics.
- Try to have established a habit of sharing regular quality time with your child. It can be more difficult to do as they become teenagers and young adults, but make a date with them weekly if you can. Take time out to plan things together. To talk about life after the exams. To hear their fears and anxieties. Help them to feel valued and supported within your family. Remind them that there is a path for them. Exams may or may not be a part of it.
- Young people taking exams are quite likely to be extra moody or sensitive, maybe even rude, and may not show any interest in family pursuits or in their siblings. Try to support other children to understand what they are going through and maintain ground rules of respect within the home. It is okay for your young person to feel overwhelmed and act out these feelings, but they have to respect that they cannot make others’ lives a misery during exam time as it can be a lengthy few weeks. You know your child best, and some young people can experience particular stress around exams, so if their behaviour changes to an extent or there is anything that causes you particular concern, talk with them and seek professional supports.
- As parents, we need to look after ourselves during our children’s exams too. If you are feeling anxious about this time yourself, remember that exams are not just what life is about. They are, of course, very important pathways towards achievement in our society but if your child is not keen on them, try to remember that we have our lives and they have theirs. We always simply want what is best for them but we cannot force them to study, and may alienate them if we push too hard. Take time out for you during exam time. Self care – ‘parenting the self‘ – is the key to positive parenting, especially in challenging times.
- For parents who are sharing parenting, this may be a time to talk about establishing more flexible parenting patterns for a short while. It may not be ideal for the young person to move between homes during these weeks. Maybe one home is quieter than the other; maybe one parent has more time at home than the other. Naturally you will both want what is right for your child and work to put aside any difficulties that may exist or arise sharing parenting at this time.
- Celebrate with your child before the exams start. Tell them how proud you are of their achievements to date. Remind them of all they have achieved and what a wonderful person they are. Building your child’s confidence levels now can go a long way towards successful outcomes in the future.
- It is important that we trust our children. Sometimes we have to step back to allow them to take the lead. If they are taking the early exams such as Junior Cert, this is all new to them – it’s the first big exam they have ever sat. Even if they are in first year, taking end of term exams is a big deal. Trust that they will be fine. If they don’t make the effort, they will know that they didn’t and usually learn from this. The key here is to work with them around their confidence and their sense of how valued they feel in this world. When our children believe in themselves and know that we believe in them, they will succeed, whatever path they choose.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Monday 11 May from 11am-12pm on NEW One Family Parenting Group. Join in and post your question.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email email@example.com.