MyTutor for Parents

Exam season parenting: your top questions answered

Emotions can run high for teens and parents during exam season. You want to support your child through this stressful time, but what’s the best way? To help you work it out, we invited Dr Louise Egan–a clinical psychologist who specialises in children’s mental health– to answer your burning questions. In our recent Q&A, she shares her helpful insights on exam season parenting.

Let’s look at some highlights…

1. “My daughter’s finding it hard to stay motivated and puts off revising. How can I help boost her motivation?”

Sometimes teens are put off because they think revising will be hard. But once they actually get going, they see that it’s not as bad as they thought. Still, exams are a long slog. If they take small steps every day and study in short blocks of time with breaks in between, it can make revising a lot easier. The Pomodoro technique is a great tool to help teens manage their study time.

2. “My son studies a lot but always gets disappointing results. Why aren’t his grades reflecting the time he puts into studying?”

illustration-mum-helping-with-homework

It might be the technique he’s using to study. It’s a good idea to mix up revision activities. So for example, he can use flashcards to help him memorise a topic, and mind maps to help him see the bigger picture and how things connect. Revising in different ways like this helps the material sink in better. 

It could also be that his confidence is getting in the way. Maybe he thinks he’s not good at school, and that negative tape plays on loop when he needs to focus. You can let him know what he’s good at to help build up his confidence. It doesn’t have to relate to school– it can be how well he looks after his younger brother, or how he’s got a great sense of humour. The praise you give him is like feeding pennies into a piggy bank, so that when his confidence takes a knock, he’s got pennies left in reserve. Lyrics in music can sometimes help boost confidence in teens, too. The singer Paloma Faith is really open about her own problems with confidence. People they look up to (like celebrities) can help teens build the courage to talk about tricky problems they’re facing.

3. “My daughter can’t do more than 2 hours of revision before she gets frustrated. Should I step back, even when I think she should be doing more?”

Telling teens what to do usually makes them rebel and push against you. But you can still help your daughter by showing you’re on her side. If she’s getting 

angry and frustrated with exams, you can model what it’s like to be kind and gentle. So showing her that you know where she’s coming from by saying, ‘I know this is tough,’ goes a long way. Encourage her to take breaks and self–soothe. Have her fill a shoebox with things that make her feel good, like nice smelling candles and hand creams and fluffy socks. Then when she’s feeling overwhelmed with exams, she can go back to that shoebox to help herself settle.  

And shine a spotlight on the things she’s doing well. Praise her when you see she’s revising. It’ll get you a lot further than pointing out what she’s not doing.

4. “My son is a reluctant reader.  He tells me he’s already reading in English class, but I don’t think that’s enough. How can I get him to spend more time reading?”

Find out what your son is interested in and get him reading material around that. If he’s interested in gaming, you can get him gaming manuals. Or if your teen’s mad about sports, you can give him magazines or sports biographies. Graphic novels and anime are popular with teens, too. 

Sometimes they might just be put off by carrying a book, and would happily read on their phone instead. Or even audiobooks might work better for them–and it can still help build up their vocabulary and love of stories.

5. “Do you have any tips on what to do if they get a disappointing grade on results day?”

It helps to remind them about their skills, gifts and talents in all parts of their lives. Start feeding those positive messages about what they do well now so that come exam results day, they’ve got a soft landing. Invite them to share their side with you. Why are they disappointed? Where are their expectations coming from? Have they heard it from someone else, that grades and achieving mean everything? 

And remember to PACE yourself: 

P- Be playful, and try to lighten the mood where you can with humour.

A- Accept their disappointment. 

C- Be curious with ‘I wonder’ statements. ‘I wonder what we could take away from this?’ 

E- Empathise. Tell them you get what they’re going through. ‘It’s tough sitting exams and then getting a grade you don’t want.’

Parenting during exams can feel like a rollercoaster with all its ups and downs. But you’re not alone in your worries. What was very clear in our Q&A with Louise is how much our parent community cares about their teens–and that is the best starting point. 

To watch Louise’s full talk, have a look here

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