When you’ve got a teenager in school, looming exams can cause rising tension at home. Support from parents can make a big difference to a student’s success, but when or how should you involve yourself in their revision? From the Spring term onwards, it’s great to make your family home a revision-friendly place. Here we’ve collected a few revision tips for parents:
Here we’ve collected a few revision tips for parents:
Your child will need a dedicated place to do all their hard work in the coming months. A calm, ordered space where they know they can knuckle down and get into a routine.
They might fancy the kitchen table, but that usually comes with the distractions and clutter of family life – meals being prepped, people coming and going, dogs barking, phone calls etc.
Help them by setting up a space where they can lay out what they’re working on – then set rules for the rest of the family regarding no-entry zones and noise levels.
Under stress we all crave stuff we know isn’t great for us. Carbs, sugary snacks, ice cream. Yet studying teenagers need the vitamins and chemicals found in healthier fresh foods to fuel their brain activity. If getting your child to eat their greens is a daily battle, try supplementing with some sweet-but-still-good-for-you snacks. Berries, dark chocolate and energy bars are all good options. They’ll feel tonnes better too than if they ate a family bag of crisps.
Sugary and high-caffeine drinks are also ever-popular with teens, especially if they’re studying into the night (which they should try not to do – sleep is much more useful). Swap the Red Bull out for water and fresh juice to help them remain calmer and more focused. And limit coffees to 1 a day.
If your kid’s GCSE homework looks nothing like what you learned at school, ask them to teach it back to you. Explaining things to you will force them to understand and articulate the concepts properly, which helps them remember it better.
Get them to explain key concepts to you, and probe them with questions. If they can explain a topic so you understand it, chances are they’ve got their head around it pretty well too.
The link between sleep and memory means getting enough sleep is key for revision success. Encourage your child to get enough sleep every night in spite of the stress as exams near. It’ll improve concentration, and help avoid the vicious circle of anxiety and insomnia.
A good rule of thumb is 8 hours per night where possible. Finishing schoolwork at least an hour before bedtime and closing social media gives them the chance to wind down in time for bed.
Taking regular breaks can also improve memory and concentration, and therefore revision. Each student is different, so your child should take breaks whenever works best for them and for appropriate lengths.
Allowing half an hour of TV is often more helpful for their revision strategy than not having a break at all. Being flexible and understanding in this way will also remind them that you’re on their side too.
Although usually an instruction directed at teenagers, parents too can create distracting noise throughout the day, so try to keep this to a minimum where possible. Whilst achieving the ambience of a library is unrealistic – especially if you have kids of different ages – there are simple things you can do reduce the level of noise.
When exams are just a few weeks away, limiting the amount of time that other children have friends over, and putting off any birthday parties at home until afterwards, if possible, will help to keep home a revision-friendly base for your child.
Technology can be a teen’s best friend or their worst enemy when it comes to studying effectively. While online tutoring and various apps offer innovative ways to focus and organise, the perpetual distractions from social media and instant messaging constantly jump in the way. To work around this, keeping communications with friends on their phone and studying on their computer is a good first step. Making sure desktop notifications for texts, emails, WhatsApp and everything else that bleeps in the top-right hand corner of the screen is switched off helps fend off distractions.
If your child puts their phone into “airplane mode” or even simply “do not disturb” this means they’ll only see updates when they check their phone themselves. A rule where they only check their phone each hour or so when on a break means that they can feel in control of their revision time, instead of being at the mercy of daily drama on Instagram and Snapchat.
Whether your teen is doing their first ever national school exams at GCSE level, or if they’ve moved on to A levels, it’s likely that this is the first time they have had to manage stress over an extended period. Just like everything else you’ve taught them as a parent, now you can implant wisdom about how to manage anxiety and work pressure.
As stress is a normal part of life, showing them how it works and how to manage it is a key to success in their exams and beyond. Of course, while you can do all you can to support and help your teen to do their best, you both know that ultimately the drive and effort has to come from them. Whatever happens next, your child knows you love and support them no matter what.