Exam season can be stressful for teens and parents alike, and finding a healthy balance between supporting and hounding them through revision can be tough.
Although recent research found that nagging could help children become more successful in the future, it might not help to create the healthiest relationship with your teen.
“There’s a difference between incessant nagging and setting guidelines and establishing goals,” says neuropsychologist Dr Sanam Hafeez, who co-led the study. “When parents nag too much, children decide they can’t do anything right, so they might as well stop trying.”
In our Get Prepped series this month, we share 11 ways you support your teens before, during and after exams, without compounding the stress they may already be going through.
1. Help them create a revision timetable
Your teen might need help structuring their days and creating a revision timetable, so find a good template and offer your help. You could also create a large wall calendar to help them keep track. Then, crucially, trust them to stick to it. Try checking in with them occasionally, but also encourage them to take regular breaks like going outside for a walk and seeing friends, to help them strike a balance.
2. Source a tutor to help with revision
A great way of making sure your teen covers the topics they need is by sourcing them help, rather than nagging your way through it. A private tutor can personalise sessions, help them fill topic area gaps and work with them on specific exam techniques, so you can rest easy.
3. Be there to talk to
Your teen might find it overwhelming if you’re always checking in to see whether they’re okay. So, try setting aside one-to-one time at dinner, in the car or on walks and make it clear that they can talk to you about any worries as they come up.
4. Introduce de-stress activities
When they’re in the thick of it, exam stress can build up. They might not have tried mindful or grounding activities before, so you could try a few with them, like meditation, journalling or walking in nature. This can help to show your teen that stress affects everyone and certain activities can help them build resilience.
5. Watch your words
There’s a fine line between supporting and pressuring, and around this time it can be helpful for you to talk to your teen as positively as possible. Try little encouraging nudges like: ‘Remember how good it makes you feel when you get your revision done before dinner,’ or ‘I can see how much effort you’re putting in and I’m proud of you.’
6. Be a little more flexible
When your child is revising all day and sitting exams, now’s the time to cut them a little slack. Try not to worry about untidy bedrooms or household jobs. Staying calm yourself can help and remember that exams don’t last forever.
When they’ve had a tough exam
7. Ask them how you can help
The most helpful thing you can ask anyone (not just your teen) who is struggling is: ‘how can I help you?’ If they’ve struggled during an exam, hear them out before diving into ‘fix things’. Sometimes, they may need you to help problem-solve, but a lot of the time they’ll need you just to listen or give them a hug.
8. Give them space
If your teen doesn’t love opening up but you can tell that an exam hasn’t gone swimmingly, give them some breathing room. Let them switch off after exams by watching their favourite show or taking a long bath. Avoid asking them too many specific questions and just let them know you’re there. Read 5 more ways to support your teen when exams don’t go well here.
9. Plan a treat
Whether it’s their favourite day out, a trip to the cinema or just making their favourite meal, plan some fun time after their exams to help them blow off steam. They don’t need grand gestures, just time to remember that there’s more to life than grades.
10. Help them enjoy the in-between time
As humans, we tend to be really bad at allowing ourselves to bask in the moment. It’s an art, but encourage your teen to really drink in the idea of no more exams (for a while)! Help them take time to wind down and savour this in-between moment where the pressure’s off.
11. Accept their feelings
Once exams are over, your teen might feel a whole mix of emotions. Try to accept these, whatever they are – disappointment, embarrassment, pride, relief. There’ll be plenty of time between now and results time to take stock and talk next steps.
Taking a more supportive and less unrelenting approach when it comes to helping your teens through exams could really pay off. Not only will they feel less pressured, but more validated when stress runs high or things go wrong. Setting guidelines and checking in are a good idea – incessant nagging perhaps not.
Want to find a tutor who can support before and during exams? Find the right tutor for your teen here.