If like me, you have a son or daughter approaching mock exams and you are concerned about the best way to support them over the coming weeks, here are my thoughts around what may help, both as a parent, and as a professional supporting young people.
More does not mean better
It is so hard, as parents, not to pass on ‘how we would do it’ to our children and to worry if we don’t see them doing ‘enough’ preparation or revision. This may be based on our own experiences or what we are hearing from others about what their children are doing. As with the primary school years, don’t compare. Every child is different and part of the intention of mock examinations is to help our young people become familiar with the process and how it flows for them rather than immerse themselves in work from morning to night. Don’t get me wrong, preparation is key for any test, but the more we ‘remind’ them to do something, the more they are likely to resist our suggestion or kick back.
Sometimes I have to sit on my hands, bite my tongue and use every ounce of my willpower to stop myself ‘suggesting’ now might be a good time to do some work, because I know it does not go well when I do!
The interesting thing is, when I do take a step back, I often find my son takes a step forward and I find him making the decision himself to go and spend some time going through one of his subjects.
Learning is a life skill, and we have to find our own path with it. We know, as teens, we would have pushed back on anyone who was ‘telling us what to do’ and it is no different for our children.
You might be worried that they might not do well if you don’t encourage or remind, but support comes in many forms and sometimes it is more valuable to do the things which nurture them and help them feel calmer and relaxed in their downtime. For us it’s making sure he has time to chill, has the food he enjoys at mealtimes and that he still gets the time to sleep at the weekend and not feel under pressure to work all the time. This helps our teens learn that it is okay to take care of themselves even when there is work to do.
Let them find their way
We have to face the truth that mistakes will be made in our teen’s lives, just like they were in ours. We can’t help them avoid this happening, and neither should we, no matter how hard it is. It is part of the parenting journey of letting go as they emerge towards independence. Examinations are often the first opportunity for them to truly take responsibility for their own learning, and if it does not go as well as expected, it is invaluable to help them understand what happened, why, and what they could do differently next time.
Supporting them through this process will build resilience, problem solving skills and pride in what they have accomplished rather than what they haven’t.
It is the hardest thing in the world to see our children feel disappointed with themselves or stressed out that they are not doing ‘well enough’. Helping them focusing on what they have achieved rather than what they haven’t and shining a light on how they have navigated tricky times over the past year and are still motivated to keep learning and striving forward are some key messages we can share with our teens at a time when they really need to hear them. They may ignore, or reject your comments, but rest assured they do go in somewhere. I call it ‘planting a seed’.
We are all doing the best we can
I need this reminder sometimes daily for myself and I know our teens need to hear it to. Academic success should not be the sole focus of our teenagers’ lives. What they feel is a real accomplishment for them will be different for their peers.
The important part is that they see the opportunities ahead of them which help them to feel more excited and motivated for the future, we all need hope in our lives as we move forward.
Having a focus or a goal can help them to put the exams they may be facing into perspective and help you to support and encourage them in the way they need it to the best of their ability rather than worrying that they are not going to get the top grade. As I have seen in my practice over the past 18 months particularly, a calm mind is able to learn and focus on the future in a positive way, stress and overwhelm will have a negative impact on their learning ability no matter how strong the intentions.
Our teens are still learning how to manage stressful situations and we can model a sense of calm ourselves by creating space, time and opportunities for relaxation so that our young people can switch off and give themselves and their minds time to recover and process. This may sound counter-intuitive but helping them obtain more balance during these weeks can be invaluable for their future progress and confidence in themselves.
And finally, whatever they achieve and however they do, every single one of them is amazing for keeping going, turning up and overcoming the trickiest times which have been the hardest on them. That in themselves should give us, and them, every reason to be proud.
Please contact me if you would like to discuss any of the above, I am here to listen and guide.
Love Clare x