At this time of year, anyone doing exams can begin to feel a little overwhelmed. Whether it is end of year exams, SATS, GCSES or A Levels children and young people feel a great deal of pressure; whether real or perceived, to achieve and succeed. So what do our children and young people need from the adults around them at this time?
5 Top Tips to helping your kids manage exam pressures
1. Ask them what they need from you - So many parents fall into the trap of constantly nagging their children to study. However, when we over-do it our children can feel suffocated and overwhelmed. When we ask our kids what they need it opens up a dialogue where we can brainstorm ideas together - do they need help revising or do they just need their favourite meal for dinner? Do they need help planning a timetable or can you test them on their knowledge?
2. Work/Life balance - As adults we are constantly trying to juggle work and life commitments but how does it feel when you are working all the time and don't have time to do the things that bring you joy? Whether it is catching up with your favourite Netflix show or chatting to a friend, everyone - and that includes our kids too - need to have a balance. It's really important to timetable fun stuff as well as study otherwise our children feel overwhelmed more easily and this will lead to panic attacks, anxiety and low mood.
3. Connections - Never under estimate the power of finding time to do things together - even if your teen mutters under their breath and shrugs or grunts when you ask them how their day has been (sometimes as parents we just pick the wrong moment to ask - don't make it personal!) If we make time to eat as a family together at least once a week, we make time to connect and find out about each other. It's not about the food - it's a time for communication and so listening without judgement is really important for connection. Your teens will thank you for really hearing them and listening rather than directing them.
4. Praise - Praise is not always easy to remember but the impact can be relationship changing. Try to focus on the good stuff to boost your child's self confidence and self belief. Descriptive positive raise is more powerful still and shows that you can understand your child's point of view. So instead of saying "you would do so much better if you studied more", if you use descriptive praise you could say " well done for spending 40 minutes revising, I know it's not much fun and it takes alot of determination not to be distracted". You are focusing on the positive and boosting your kids self esteem at the same time (which will hopefully boost them up to study more without the nagging!)
5. Honesty and consistency - saying sorry when you mess up! Our kids catch on to us quickly and can be quick to point out when we get things wrong. Having our failings pointed out to us naturally trigger our defences and so can easily cause arguments. However, if we can step back to ask ourselves if we are being unreasonable or if we realise later that we could have reacted differently, saying sorry and voicing our own emotions can really help to build stronger and happier relationships with our kids. Remember our kids know us, so if you have been stressed from work and snap at your teen because you are tired, they appreciate you much more if you own up rather than trying to hide the evidence!
Remember you don't have to be perfect - it's ok to be 'good enough'.
Your kids will thank you for it (even if they don't say it, they will feel it!)