High school exams – reducing the stress at home

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Year end and final school exams can be a stressful time for the whole family, but let’s take a look at what you can do to get through these last few weeks with the best possible outcome.

This period in a teenagers life is often a time of distraction anyway, with developing interest in relationships, learning to drive and thinking about future career possibilities. In the final year of school students may be planning a GAP year or a move to another city and even develop a sense of loss at friends all going their separate ways. End of year exams are not the only thing happening in a teenagers life, however some students and even parents place different amounts of emphasis on this ‘event’.

What can parents do practically, to help their teen with their study time?

  • Provide a good place to study that is quiet and technology free. A break from facebook over these few weeks would not be a bad idea.
  • Encourage teens to eat good balanced meals and cut out any foods which cause upset stomachs the night before an exam.
  • Caffeine can cause lots of digestive problems too or cause havoc with good sleep patterns.
  • Provide a good healthy breakfast on exam mornings so that they can concentrate. Make use of Omega – 3 fish oil supplements, which studies have shown improves concentration and learning. 
  • Encourage enough sleep, as cramming just creates more stress and less rest time (sleep is vital for the brain to actually process the information learned)
  • Don’t stop all sport at this time, as exercise increases oxygen to the brain and also reduces stress.


What can parents do to support their children emotionally?

  • Highlight strengths and successes that your child has achieved over the last few years – resilient kids work well drawing on their strengths, not over focusing on weaknesses.
  • Have realistic expectations. By this stage parents know what their children are truly capable of.
  • Expect that your child may be super sensitive or explosive due to stress, so try not to over-react to small issues.
  • Avoid conflict over minor matters, like picking up their socks.
  • Make some concessions around housework or chores during this period.
  • Encourage independence, although teens with ADHD and so on will still need adult guidance with study timetabling and routines.
  • Continue to hug and affirm your child.


Final school exams – Encouraging your child to keep it all in perspective

  • Talk about how proud you are that they have made it to year 12. 
  • “In the lead up, look at positive job options which do not require a degree or trade. If other interests are catered for, there is not so much pressure.” (Teacher, Nicole Maxfield-Carr)
  • Let them know that a perfect grade does not equal a perfect life.
  • Being Gen Y, there is a very strong possibility that what they study, they may not end up doing as part of their career anyway. This is not to minimise the importance of the discipline of studying for their finals but recognising it is only ONE pathway to their future.
  • Remind your child that this is only for a short period in their lives, so just doing the best that they can do is what is important.


But what if they bomb out and they really don’t get the mark they wanted?

  • Take time to reassess the situation and other possible career pathways. Talk about this even before results come out.
  • When results come out, focus on what they have achieved and remind them that there are many avenues to get to the career they would like.
  • If they are disappointed, begin seeking advice and visiting career counsellors at colleges and universities fairly quickly, so that your child can gain perspective.

Enjoy the start of a new adventure and a deepening friendship with your adult child!

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