exam stress

Posted on May 29, 2012

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Apologies for my silence these past few weeks but I have been finishing a book. As every teenager on study leave will know, deadlines are very stressful.  I couldn’t really operate as a normal human being with nothing but ‘Infidelity’ (the subject of the book) on my mind – and talk civilly to my family, load the dishwasher, remember the dog, let alone write this blog. But now the book is delivered I feel the delicious liberation which all of our children will be feeling sometime around the end of June.

 Living with a teenager studying for the dreaded GCSE’s, AS’s or A levels can tax a parent’s tolerance. They regress under stress just like I did. They shout and slam doors. They demand the brow soothing of a very sick child because the pressure and deadline of looming exams feels like the ultimate test of their entire school life.

 So here is what I have learned over a number of years with all three of these ghastly milestones:

  • Practice saying ‘yes’ to everything even when your instinct tells you to say ‘no do it yourself’  e.g can you get me some paracetamol, chocolate digestives, my calculator from the car.
  • Cook loads of delicious and nutritious food which means going to the supermarket A LOT because they are always home and eat continuously to stoke their brain.
  • Never say things like ‘I don’t think you are doing enough work’ because this could cause them to leave the house for a week and you wont know where they are and will be worried sick. Even the anodyne ‘How’s it going?’ at the wrong moment could be interpreted as ‘I don’t have any faith in your ability to pass these exams’ so be careful.
  • Offer unlimited quantities of back up should they need it – they only have to ask for a tutor, help with revision notes, testing your Shakespeare quotes or the factors leading up to the First World War
  • Bribes help too.
  • As does the odd treat if you think they are working so hard that they might explode unless they get a diversion, such as going to see a good film, a DVD in from the local shop or a pizza out.
  • Drive them to school for exams if you can. No need to pick them up for they will be with their friends then and need a post mortem. Plus its embarrassing.

Above all, don’t expect them to behave like civilised human beings. You will then be pleasantly surprised when they turn around and say ‘thanks mum’, or you hear them commenting to a sibling ‘that Mum’s being pretty nice and cool at the moment’. Then when the results come in you can celebrate or commiserate (and probably it will be a bit of both) without feeling guilty about the fact that you could have tried harder to help.

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