15 Apr Study tips for the exam season: how parents can support their teens
It’s that time of year again when everyone is about to start (or already is) revising for exams. It can be a stressful period for those taking papers, of course, but perhaps we don’t always consider that the exam season can be pretty trying for parents, too, potentially putting added pressure on family life.
Often, it’s a case of striking a delicate balance between not being seen to ‘fuss’ over your teenager (they won’t always want yet another cup of tea!) while also being supportive, and between being sensitive to the fact that they’re taking exams while not over-hyping the said exams’ importance.
Some parents may be battling their own fears or bad memories of sitting examinations, which could easily be brought to the forefront of their minds now it’s their children’s turn. But don’t pass on any jitters – focus on providing a calm, nurturing environment to maximise your teen’s chances of success.
Here are a few tips to help everything go smoothly, so that nerves are frayed as little as possible:
- Know the exam timetable. Have it pinned up somewhere prominent, such as on the fridge. Highlight each paper to be taken and check at least twice exactly when the exam starting time is. You don’t want the stress of any manic car journeys to reach an exam hall literally as the door is closing (take it from someone who knows from bitter experience…).
- Double check your son or daughter has everything they need to sit their exams when they leave the house each day, from bottled water to writing instruments.
- Make sure your exam candidate or candidates are in a good daily routine. That includes ensuring they get sufficient breaks, exercise and sleep, and that they stop studying at least an hour before bedtime so there’s enough time to unwind, with no late-night cramming.
- A balanced diet including a proper breakfast, particularly on exam days, is also important. (Also encourage your son or daughter to join in family meals, where the topic of exams should be banned!)
- If your child has study leave days and you happen to be working at home on one of these days, you could plan taking a break together – either over a cup of tea or on a brisk, head-clearing walk.
- Ask them about each exam and listen – but if they don’t want to discuss it, respect their wishes. If they do open up about that day’s exams, avoid dwelling on anything they think they may have got wrong. Instead, shift the focus gently forwards on to the next exam they’re sitting (or indeed on to a completely different topic of conversation).
- Give teenagers the quiet space they need to revise. If there are younger siblings tearing around, you may want to enforce a quiet time for, say, two hours in the early evening during exam season. If you haven’t seen the quick comedy sketches about family life during the exam revision period that we shared recently on Facebook, here’s one and here’s the other – they may resonate with the teen(s) in your house!
There are other small practical things you can do, such as going through notes with them, asking them Spanish vocabulary, timing test papers, buying new stationery (somehow having a nice new pen or notebook can boost morale!) or helping them devise a revision timetable. There are some great apps available to help with revision (see our recent blog post, which looks at Five of the Best Apps) – plus there’s the handy SQA revision planner app to help with the study schedule.
If anything, reward effort: if you’ve seen them studying diligently for their exams, take them out for a slap-up meal or buy them a ticket to see a favourite band BEFORE the results even come out. That way you’re rewarding their hard work and attitude rather than the results – which is fairer, given that not everyone is going to be an A student, no matter how hard they’ve studied.
Finally, and most importantly, help your young people understand that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t end up with the marks they wanted, and that you’ll love and support them no matter how they do.