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Don't Let the Exam-Season Become a Disaster...Here's my advice to help ensure your child's exam-fitness and that you retain your sanity
Oh dear, your daughter’s sitting GCSEs and your son’s doing AS levels - the entire household’s turned upside-down. Tears, tantrums and feeling you want to tear-your-hair-out are rife. Many parents report higher levels of stress now than at any time - but it doesn't have to be that way.
Here are my top tips to ensure your child's exam-fitness and strategies to save your sanity.
Eight Exam-Fitness Tips For Your Child:
I/ Action Plan
It's never too late to sit down and help them make a study plan. For each day left they should write out which subject, and when, they study. Make this ‘their plan’ by asking them how much break time they should put in, etc. Post on the fridge where it should be checked daily.
2/ Create Harmonious Mood
Honestly consider the general mood of your household. There might be other things going on (work projects, DIY, etc.) that should go on the back burner for the time being. Don't make a mountain out of any molehill, say, household chores that weren't done. A calm mood will give them an advantage.
3/ Praise Them to the Hills
It's easy to nag a child when you're fretting about how much studying they've accomplished that afternoon. It's far better to heap praise on when they've got it right. They're more likely the next day to try even harder.
4/ Be Choosy about Chastising
Yes, praise is important but if your child’s mucking about you should chastise them. But choose your words carefully - it's no good yelling, "You've wasted the entire day and are useless at revision!" That tack may completely demoralise them. Far better to say something like, "I know you could’ve done better today - make sure you pull your finger out tomorrow!”
5/ Minimise Panic
Help them keep panic to a minimum by keeping aware of their moods. If you notice them getting fractious (or let's be honest, annoying!) suggest a break. Halting panic early on can help them master it.
6/ Take a Holistic Approach
Definitely encourage them to do something active, taking them completely away from revision-mode, daily. It's easy to get blinkered to their study routine and forget they must blow off steam by larking about, getting out on their bike, etc.
7/ Use Their Teachers’ Knowledge
Get in touch with their key teachers and ask for any study tips. They'll know what your child has mastered, may need extra work on, or even how they work best.
8/ Fuel Their Energy Needs
They should definitely be eating good, nutritious food. Unhealthy snacks - fizzy drinks, sweets - are fine as treats only. Also they shouldn't have sugary foods after supper. Avoiding these will promote all-important, brain-boosting sleep.
Seven Strategies to Save Your Sanity:
1/Network With Other Parents
Sometimes they have tips/ideas that might work for you. It's also fantastic to off-load your anxieties by sharing them. Comparing notes can normalise your feelings by realising other parents worry as much.
2/ Take It Day-by-Day
Depending on your child's exams you may have a number of weeks to get through. Instead of panicking about how on earth you’ll manage to stay sane, take each day in turn. Focus your energies on that day and what needs to be done - forget tomorrow, you haven't got there yet!
3/ Don't Make It 24/7
Yes, your child doing their best is a pretty big deal but it’s not everything. You shouldn't be obsessing about it 24/7. Make some time for enjoying things you normally do like some socialising. One mother I spoke to, Jessica, 43, literally hibernated during her children's exams. That gives a subtle - and negative - message to your child that their exams are the "be all and end all". They shouldn't be for them or for your life.
4/ Be The Right Role Model
It's easy to tell your child to stop complaining and get down to studying but how about you and your behaviour? Do they hear you complain about a work deadline or other obligation? Demonstrate that you can meet challenges without whingeing and moaning and you might find they moan less about their studies.
5/ Knock Chaos on the Head
Yes, life’s probably a whirlwind right now but chaos will make you edgy. Streamline what you can in your life right now. When making a meal, say, spaghetti Bolognese, treble the recipe and freeze two lots. Any time-saver will help you avoid chaos.
6/ Nurture Your Relationship
This isn’t the time to drone on to your partner at bedtime about every detail of their exam prep. Instead cuddle up and talk about other, pleasant things. Getting completely wrapped up in your child's exams can be negative for your relationship.
7/ Don't Beat Yourself Up
With the best will in the world you still might erupt like Krakatoa when they've not got down to revision and other stressors have been building. Don't beat yourself up, instead apologise and resolve not to get to volcano-point again.
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