Whilst out walking a couple of days ago, a woman ran up to me and asked if I had seen a boy. It turns out that her son (aged18) had run away from school and phoned her to say he was going to kill himself. As mother to an 18 year old myself, I was horrified at the thought. Fortunately, he was found shortly afterwards and is OK. It made me consider the amount of pressure that is piled onto our young people by parents concerned about future prospects and schools concerned with results. It is far worse than anything we experienced at the same age and it really needs to stop. I work with children of this age who are struggling with their studies and need extra support. Many of them are full of anxiety and believe that their exam results are everything. Our teenagers are lovely, often misunderstood and need more care from us all. Here are ten ideas to help your teenagers through the pressure of exams:-
1. Tell them that you want them to do well, but if they don’t it is not the end of the world. There is a good future for them, even if they have to follow an unconventional path.
2. Help them to organise their studies and set realistic targets with time for real life as well as studying. A shorter time spent on good quality revision is better than hours shut up in their room staring at notes. Four or five lots of 45 minutes in a day of quality revision leaves time to relax or see friends in the evening. An eight hour day of revision is unlikely to be effective.
3. You shouldn’t have to tidy up after your teen, but during exam times it is a kind gesture to help them keep their room pleasant and calm, so that they can focus on their studies without distractions.
4. Have a fixed time for meals when they can leave their room and sit with the family. Make a nice meal for them to enjoy ( they can make up for it by cooking for you when the exams are over). Teenagers love to snack so make sure you have some tasty but nutritious snacks available. Favourites in our house are the Eat Natural Bars and Kind nuts and seeds bars, along with Innocent smoothies.
5. Aromatherapy is a powerful way to create a sense of calm. Buy a calming room spray, or a diffuser.
6. If your teen is a restless fidgeter, then buy some squeezy stress balls or fidget toys.
7. Indulge them with lovely stationery. Make revision a more creative task with coloured pens, colour block pads (Paperchase), plain paper for mind maps and their favourite pens ( such as Pilot Frixion). These small luxuries make the task more fun and less daunting.
8. Check that their revision strategies are effective and efficient. Look at the detail-what exactly are they doing? Just reading notes won’t cut it. Unless they are actively involved the revision just won’t be remembered. Notes need to be read and then re-written or condensed-or made into a diagram, or flashcards (see the Chegg app). They need to test themselves by answering questions- not just copying out notes. I find it quite sad that so many young people are wasting hours revising in an ineffective way and I am afraid that most schools just don’t help very much with this.
9. Make time for fun. Book a cinema trip, take them out for a pizza or organise a movie night at home. Make some fancy mocktails. Just have fun, with small treats, to break up the grind. It is more important to reward the effort along the way than the results at the end.
10. Do your best to free up some time to support your teenagers through this stressful time and demonstrate, in simple ways, that you love and appreciate them. Keep calm so that they can see that you are not panicking about their future. There are more important things in life.