Tuesday 26 May 2015

Help for parents during exam time

If anybody, like us, has children doing serious exams, the word "stress" might make you want to reach for a glass of wine to calm your nerves, let alone your poor child. Teenagers are programmed to overreact and respond in an overly sensitive way to pressure, and challenging situations which they may face.  This is all normal and to do with their brain undergoing a complete overhaul in preparation for adulthood. It's a vulnerable time developmentally and parents need to remain tuned in to how their child is coping generally, and not fan the flames.

Teenagers face more pressure and competition today than ever before and developing self-control is a vital tool for tolerating life's ups and downs. A simple lesson in brain science for anyone who is involved with teenagers is invaluable.   In order for your child to be focused, alert and rational with full access to their memory banks (crammed with revised data) - they need to be feeling calm. Facing exams for most children alerts their Fight, Flight or Freeze setting dial, none of which leave them in an appropriate mindset for exams.   An over reactive emotional stress response literally hijacks the rational thinking bit of their brain.   Here is how you can help your child:
  1. Showing them how to breathe (from the diaphragm like a set of bellows) is the quickest way for the floodgates in the emotional brain to re-open so they have access to all that "revision" carefully housed in their rational brain. 
  2. Help your child is to stop the negative chattering in their head ("I'm going to fail, I haven't learnt enough...") - this just escalates their panic setting.   Tell your child to use the time from waiting outside the examination hall until the exam starts to breathe deeply, as above, but count in for 3 and out for 4.  This will help get their mind in gear.
  3. In the words of Henry Ford, whether "you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right".  Develop a positive mental attitude.  
  4. Make sure your child has set achievable and realistic goals and is not setting themselves up for self-fulfilling failure.  Check what grades/results they believe they are going to achieve.  It is likely, at this stage, to be (pessimistically) low, remind them on results day that they (hopefully) achieved more than they had hoped.  
  5. Be prepared to let them rant to you and try and soak up some of their angst - if they can let off steam with you, it may save them from depositing their angst in unacceptable ways elsewhere.  (they can always be encouraged to apologise to you later
  6. Avoid fuelling each others anxieties, emotions are contagious and you can help keep them calm....read on:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationadvice/11604646/Exam-time-avoid-fuelling-each-others-anxieties.html
Lots of sleep, good food, and above all reassurance, will all help to soothe frazzled nerves