It's rapidly approaching that time of year where senior year students can start to feel the pressure of upcoming exams. Parents and other family members can play a crucial role in providing support to get through this challenging period with confidence. Here's some tips to remind you of ways you can help:
Tip 1: Basic needs first.
No-one can cope well with stressful situations if they are not feeling their best. Sleeping and eating are obvious needs that we have that can easily slip during stressful times like exam periods. It's tempting to stay up late to study and to skip meals or eat comfort food. Parents can help their teenagers by discussing what will help, e.g. planning healthy food together and making sure it's on hand when the teenager is ready for it. Some teenagers might prefer to snack during the day rather than eating larger meals.
Parents can also support teenagers with their sleeping by checking in on how their sleep is going, negotiating wake up times and helping the teenager maintain a regular sleep routine. Sleep happens when we have a regular routine that prepares our body and mind for the night's sleep. These routines can slip during exam periods. We can remind our teenagers that the healthier we are the better we will perform. A check up with the general practitioner could also be a useful strategy to identify any areas of concern, such as vitamin or iron deficiencies which can affect the immune system or energy levels.
Tip 2: Mental health matters
Parents can support their teenagers by helping them to monitor their mental health.Taking some time out to relax and even to do some meditations can be helpful. Resources such as the Smiling Mind phone app can be easy to use and is effective. Remind teenagers of what helps them to feel good, how they have coped with challenges before and who they can talk with. Acknowledge the challenges and pressures they are feeling and be ready to listen to their feelings. Be ready to offer support and affirmation when they are able to hear it.
Tip 3: Encourage life balance
No-one can study all day everyday. Encourage your teenagers to set up a plan for their week which includes study, rest and some leisure. Help them to build in some relaxation and social time during each day. Remind them that the rest and fun times will nurture them and help them to study better. Keeping in contact with friends and family will help them to feel connected to others and valued members of their community and family. Encourage them to have some regular study free times each week and negotiate with them to do something fun and relaxing, like a walk on the beach together or visit to a cafe.
Tip 4: Maintain perspective
When teenagers are facing exams their future can seem totally dependent upon the results they achieve. As adults with life experience we appreciate that the results, while important, are only one aspect of their future. There are many pathways and journeys that they will be able to take. Finding a way to model positivity and perspective while recognising the importance your teenagers are placing on their exams can be like walking a tightrope. Be sure to let your teenagers know that you will always be there to support them regardless of the outcomes, that you are proud of their efforts and you value and love them for who they are.
Tip 5: Encourage help seeking
During times of challenge, it is important to know that we can always seek help when we need it. Recognising that we all need help at times can help us to seek help early, look for the most useful help and be accepting of offers. This could include utilising the help that school staff offer, particularly from teachers and staff that the teenager trusts and feels supported by. Sometimes this might not be the subject teacher but another staff member who can encourage and understand your teenager's needs. It might be asking friends for help. Maybe sharing a problem with someone who is going through the same experience will be enough to keep their confidence up. The general practitioner can be helpful as a resource for support around both physical and mental health issues. Stress management techniques might be helpful and organisations like Headspace can offer individualised support to help your teenager (and you get through). Parents can also seek help for themselves if they are uncertain or struggling with their own emotions around parenting their teenagers during this time.
All teenagers are individuals who respond to stressful times like exam periods in their own unique ways. They may have some approaches or ways of coping that parents don't understand. If that's the case it's important to keep the communication open and show trust as your teenagers have been studying for a long time and receive support from their school. Being there and ready to help out but also providing the distance the teenagers need to get on with it could be the recipe for getting through this time successfully.