MyTutor for Parents

Exam season parenting: 6 Tips from Dr Louise Egan

Parenting teens can be tricky enough…and then comes exam season! Revising and sitting exams can be super stressful for your teen. Of course you want to help them feel their best, but it’s not always easy to know how to go about it. 

We were very lucky to have Dr Louise Egan– a clinical psychologist and child mental health specialist– share her top parenting tips in “Exam Season Parenting”, a two-part course with us. Here, we sum up 6 tips you can use to help your teen during exam season. 

  1. Follow their lead.
  2. Encourage self-care.
  3. Coach vs control.
  4. If they want space, you can still show them you care.
  5. Try to find a regular time to talk.
  6. Look after your own wellbeing, too.

1. Follow their lead.

You might not always see eye-to-eye with your teen. Their idea of how much time they should spend with the family, for example, might be quite different than yours. At this busy time when they’ve got lots on their plate, it’s best to follow their lead. Ask them how you can help. If they want to be on their own, give them space, but let them know you’re here if they need you. And if they’re feeling overwhelmed do what you can to make things easier on them. This might mean relaxing household chores until things settle down.

2. Encourage self-care.

mother-and-son-doing-yoga

If they’re overworking, it can affect their learning– the exact thing they’re afraid of. Remind them to take breaks. You can encourage them to play their favourite music, light candles–whatever helps them feel good.

To help them find quick ways to self-soothe, Louise suggests getting an old shoe box and having them fill it with things that make them feel happy and calm. Nice smelling shower gel, pictures of happy times, cream, candles. That way, they can just go to their box whenever they need to calm themselves.

3. Coach vs control.

Ever noticed that when you try to control them, they push back? Invite them instead to problem solve with you. If you want them to spend more time revising for example, ask them to help you come up with solutions. They might say, ‘less time doing chores,’ and you might add, ‘less time gaming.’ Together you can pick solutions that work for you both. Making them part of the decision-making will give them a feeling of control. There’s a much better chance they’ll actually follow through when they’re involved!

4. If they want space, you can still show them you care.

Teens like to spend more time on their own anyway–nevermind that they’ve got exams to revise for. But you can still connect with them in other ways. You can leave little gifts, snacks and nice messages behind their door. And you can also try to draw them out of their room with fun activities–like film Fridays. Teens love treats, so even if they’re being anti-social, you can always show them you care with tasty snacks. 

5. Try to find a regular time to talk.

illustration-mother-and-son

When you make regular time to chat with them, you’re building trust in the relationship. And there’s a good chance then that your teen will open up to you when they’ve got a problem. You can check in when you’re in the car together, or in the kitchen when they’re on their revision break. It can be super casual like this, and it’s best to keep the chat light and fun. Praise them for what they’re doing well. It doesn’t have to be related to school. Boosting their confidence with praise and encouragement at this time will help them feel more settled.

6. Look after your own wellbeing, too.

If you’re worried about your teen, they can easily pick up on your stress. This can actually add to their own feelings of anxiety. As Louise puts it, ‘You can’t serve from an empty vessel.’ So to help them through exam season, it’s a good idea to take time to relax. Soak in a bath, meditate– whatever makes you feel calm. When you’re recharged, it’ll be easier to deal with their problems.

We know that this intense time in your teen’s life is hard on them– and on you. With emotions running high, It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed. But you know your teen better than anyone, and with these encouraging tips from Louise– you can help get them back on track.

You can watch the full recording of this session here, and stay tuned for highlights from part 2.

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