How to support your child during exams
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start with supporting your child with revision and stress around exam time. Here are a few top tips about how parents and carers can ease stress, from the NHS website, and how they can support revision.
Signs of stress
- worry a lot
- feel tense
- have headaches and stomach pains
- not sleep well
- be irritable
- lose interest in food or eat more than normal
- not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
- be negative and have a low mood
- feel hopeless about the future
What you can do to help
- Make sure they eat well
- A balanced diet is vital for your child’s health, and can help them feel well during exam periods.
- A good breakfast in the morning can keep them fuelled until breaktime and help with concentration.
- Some parents find high-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine foods and drinks, such as energy drinks, cola, sweets, chocolate, burgers and chips, make their children hyperactive, irritable and moody.
Make sure they get enough good quality sleep
- Good sleep improves thinking and concentration. Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours’ sleep a night.
- Allow half an hour or so for your child to wind down between studying, watching TV or using a computer and going to bed, to help them get a good night’s sleep.
- Encourage them to leave their mobile phone outside of the bedroom when they go to sleep. The blue light keeps them awake, and the temptation of social media can keep them up longer!
Be flexible during exams
- Children will find they work best at different times, some might want a short break when they get home from school, or some might work better later in the evening. Talk to your child to see what they feel works for them.
- When your child is revising all day, try not worry about untidy bedrooms. Remember, exams do not last forever!
https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/for-parents/parents-guide-to-support-a-z/parents-guide-to-support-exam-time/ offers some great advice for dealing with this as a parent/carer. Some key points:
- Let them know their feelings are valid and normal
- Reassure them that you are proud of them!
- anxiety can be worse at night, so it can be good to encourage them to write any worries down before bed
- Encourage them to take some time after revising to wind down
- Set aside one to one time so they can talk to you about any worries
- If they are struggling with a specific subject, encourage them to talk to their subject teacher to ask for some more support
- Many children feel lots of pressure at exam time from their family. Try not to add to their pressure, be positive with them and get them to focus on the positive, particularly if they feel an exam hasn’t gone as well as planned.
Encourage exercise and fresh air
- Exercise can help boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress. It does not matter what it is – walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all effective.
- Activities that involve other people can be particularly helpful.
How you can support your child with revision
- They’ve made a revision timetable for October half-term, it should be in their booklet, take a picture of it on your phone so you can gently check-in with them to help them stick to it.
- Make sure they’ve got somewhere quiet to work with no distractions (encourage them to leave their phone in a different room – research shows this makes revision much more effective!)
- They should be trying to work in 25-40 minute chunks, then taking a short break between.
- You could them to stay motivated by offering them some kind of small reward for sticking to their timetable – this could be their choice of favourite meal, a favourite snack, watching their choice of TV show, or a bigger activity they enjoy at the end of the week.
Frequently asked questions
- My child says they need their phone to revise, is that true?
Only if they don’t have access to a computer or iPad, they could be using online revision websites. However, there are also lots of things they can do without a computer or phone. They can use revision books to create flashcards, they can summarise their notes into key points on paper, and practise past paper questions. So not all revision needs a phone!
- My child says they don’t know how or what to revise.
The students were all recently given a booklet which has all their subjects in and a list of topics. It also tells the resources they can use to revise. There is a link to the booklet here.
- What exams are my child doing?
Your child will be getting an exam timetable for their mocks and for their real exams. Texts will go home when these go out, so you can see them and take a picture of them to have a copy.
- What revision guides do they need?
All the information about revision guides can be found in the student exam guide booklet here.
- My child is spending a lot of time revising, is this normal?
The key to revision is to do it in bursts. 25-40 minutes is about the right amount of time you can concentrate for. After that, they should take a short 5 minute break, and after a couple of 25-40 minute sessions, a longer break. We would suggest over half-term, 3-4 hours of revision per day. Try to encourage them not to stay up too late the night before an exam.