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Striking the right balance this exam season

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Rachel Dodge our Psychology Subject Officer with a PhD in Wellbeing offers helpful hints and tips to parents during the revision period.  With examinations now in full swing, she offers practical advice and guidance for parents in preparation for the summer examination season.

How do I encourage revision?
Your child needs the right mental attitude to be successful at revision. Some things to remember are:

  • They will need to believe that revision will make a difference (it will).
  • They will need encouragement to keep going even if it seems hard.
  • Encourage short bursts, rather than lengthy revision periods or 'cramming'.
  • They will need to know they are not alone in this task and can get help from their teachers, friends and support from you.

How do I support my child in the best way?
If your child asks for your support, encourage them by helping them to see the difficulties in perspective. Teenagers often take an all or nothing ‘catastrophic’ approach to difficulties – “I’ve messed up this mock, I might as well give up.” Try to balance out these negative thoughts with encouraging comments.  Remind that this is only a short period of time, and they will have periods to relax in the summer.

How do I know my child is under stress?
Stress is a natural human response which has evolved as a survival mechanism.  This is often referred to as the 'flight or fight' response.  However, stress signs vary from person to person.  You might find that your child is behaving differently from usual.  Signs could include lack of concentration, avoiding people, being more sensitive, changes in eating habits, changes in sleep patterns.  Get to know your child's stress signs and try to take action when they appear.

How to balance revision and a teenager's social life?
Agree the balance between work and social life and stick to the agreement. Again, flexibility is the key – if a special night comes up, agree that they can make up the work at a specified time.  It might be worth considering the 80/20 rule. If your child is sticking to what they are supposed to be doing 80% of the time, they will be doing alright.

What about the tricky issue of phones and tablets?
Rather than banning the use of tablets and smart phones, just reduce how much time is spent on these devices – they are not only a distraction but excessive use, particularly before bedtime, can negatively impact on their sleep.

Should I make changes to their home life?
During this stressful time try to make home life as calm and pleasant as possible. It helps if other members of the household are aware that your child may be under pressure and that allowances should be made for this.

How much should I know about the exams?
You don’t have to be an expert in any of the subjects your child chooses to make a real difference. You just need to know how best to spend the time you do have to support your child.  If you do want to understand a bit more about what they are studying you can visit the WJECwebsite where you will find the specification for the course that outlines the content that students need to revise.

What I should do before exams?
Before each exam make sure you know what day the exam is on, what time it starts, how long the exam is and what is being tested in each exam. Try to ensure that your child gets enough sleep, especially the night before exams. Eating sensibly is vital, especially breakfast on exam days. Making sure your child has all the right equipment will take some stress away e.g. pens and sharp pencils, eraser, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator and a watch.