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The parents' guide to exams

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Children sitting exams
Exams are stressful times for you as well as your kids - the worry of what results they'll get and whether they're revising enough can be enough to turn your hair grey - or greyer!

Then there's the worry about them worrying and whether they're making themselves ill with stress - all of that's enough to need a good sit down and that's before you even think about the kids that won't work at all!

We go through some common exam-time worries and try to help you through them.

'I don't think they know how to revise'

It's true that knowing where to begin with revision can be difficult, especially when it seems like there's mountains to get through, but it's likely your child will have been given pointers at school of popular techniques to try out.

If they admit to you that they're struggling, then by all means give them advice and tell them things you found useful - but try to avoid 'not like that, like this' conversations which are likely to just make them annoyed.

If they seem to respond to your suggestions you could even help them draw up a study timetable.

'They don't realise how important this is'

Everyone has hopes and dreams that their child will be hugely successful and when you think they're ruining their chances by not revising enough, it can be really frustrating.

The most important thing to remember is not to nag them. Let them know that as long as they try their best, that's all you can ask. Pressuring them will just add to their stress and make them more likely to give up completely.

'They want to go out with their friends and have no motivation'

Whoever decided to give teenagers important exams at the same time that they're developing a social life and interest in the opposite sex really didn't think things through. You'd hope that your kids would be able to see that all that stuff can wait and passing their exams could potentially affect the rest of their lives but a teenage brain isn't always that rational.

'I remember the rows I had with my mum during my GCSEs.' says Sarah, 24, from London. 'She banned me from going out with my friends so I used to sit in and refuse to work in protest. I realise now that this was completely pointless but at the time I just remember feeling it was all so unfair, I'd do anything to annoy her.'

This is a good example of why forcing your child to revise rarely works. They need to want to do it for themselves and however frustrating it might be for you - all you can do is try to encourage them and reach some sort of compromise.

Tell them that they can go out for two nights/ afternoons a week, or whatever you think is fair and that they can choose when that is (barring the days before exams). If they've got clear rules to start with then they won't be constantly asking for more freedom and you won't have the same row over and over again.

In the end, the majority of teens will knuckle down and take it upon themselves to revise when they need to - you just need to trust them a bit and give them the chance.

'I'm worried that they're not sleeping well'

Exam stress can often lead to poor sleep - especially the night before when they need it the most. Try to discourage them from late-night cramming as much as possible. It doesn't work and the sleep will be so much more valuable to them than that extra hour staring at a text book.

The night before a big test try to take them away from their studies mid evening and help them relax. Cook them their favourite dinner and put on a film to take their mind off their work so they can wind down before bed and get a good night's sleep.

'They've had a couple of exams already and they haven't gone very well'

It can be hard hearing that an exam's gone badly when you were really hoping they would ace it.

Try not to let your disappointment show - nothing will make them feel worse than they probably already do than seeing your face drop. Instead tell them that there's no point dwelling on it, try to cheer them up a bit and then help them focus on how they can turn the rest of them around.

All your child needs from you at this point is for you to remain positive. All you can do is to tell them not to give up and concentrate on what's ahead.

'They've just been sat in their room for months, it's not healthy'

If your teen's taking their exams very seriously, then that's good but make sure they're not going overboard. For those kids that are really academic the stress that goes with being really desperate to succeed can sometimes be too much.

Regular breaks are important to give their brain a rest, otherwise the ability to learn and remember things rapidly decreases. It can also help to get them out the house. Even if they moan about it, drag them to the park or the shops with you just for a change of scenery.

Continued below...


Where to next?

- How to spot a stressed teen
- Self help techniques for teens
- 'Our son was terrified of letting us down'
- Exploring your child's career options

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