Exam time can be as stressful for parents as it is for students. The normal teenage angst that leads to tension in the household cranks up a few notches during exam preparation. Indeed many parents will recall attempts to ‘help’ their stressed-out teen that are interpreted as an act of war worthy of Michael Howard.

As we enter exam time for high school, college and university students, The Spark has pulled together our tips for parents during exams.

Tips for parents during exams

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Tips for parents during exams - a bit of mess is allowed

Consider the build-up to and during exams as an amnesty on issues that would typically cause some friction. Bedrooms might be messier than usual. Chores might be forgotten. But all of that is ok.

It is easy for parents during exams to revert back to the normal habit of badgering their teenager in to action. By easing off on the usual household duties you will however be giving your child more time and space to focus on exam revision. Once exams are out of the way the temporary suspension can lift and son or daughter can do a bit of catching up. After all, they will have the whole summer holidays to make up for it!

2. Talk about exam nerves and realistic expectations

Though it might seem akin to poking a caged tiger, gently encourage your daughter or son to talk, when ready, about exam nerves. How are they feeling? What pressure are they putting on themselves to deliver certain results? Emphasise that such feelings are completely normal and to be expected. Remind them of their hard work to date to build confidence and suggest they have a look at our exam stress tips for students.

3. Help make time for exercise during exam preparation

tips for parents during exams - help them get some exerciseParents during exams want their kids to do as well as they can. By definition that entails a commitment to revision, past papers and the like. A regime of eat-sleep-study-repeat is however counter-productive.

Physical exercise releases endorphins – the body’s natural mood lifter. This helps to clear their mind and take them out of the exam pressure cooker. Parents can play a vital role in encouraging and making exercise possible. For example by offering to take them to and from a sports venue or paying for them to take a night off studying to hit the gym. Help them put together a study schedule that includes regular breaks for exercise and encourage them to maintain attendance at sporting clubs or groups.

Find out more on ways for teens to exercise.

4. You get out what you put in

Along with exercise to help keep your child out of an eat-sleep-study-repeat cycle, play your part in terms of maintaining a good diet and chill out time. Focused time revising for exams is important but a cycle of study with few breaks and surviving on a diet of ‘at the desk’ snack food and energy drinks will compromise their health and exam preparations.

Check out this guide to healthy eating for teens.

5. What are you expecting from them during their exams?

tips for parents during exams - manage expectationsParents naturally want their children to do well in exams through school and further education. That is completely natural. Most kids place enough pressure upon themselves during study and exam preparation to make that outcome a reality. Additional expectations, demands or pressure from mum and dad can end up being more damaging than useful.

The application of additional pressure by mum and dad may be explicit, like telling them you want them to achieve certain grades. Or it can be more implicit, like how you talk about your expectations for exam success in front of their friends/parents of their friends.

Reassure them of your love and support no matter what the outcome of exams and emphasise that this is not the be all and end all for them. Why not encourage them to read our article ‘Do exam results define your future?’


Support and counselling from The Spark

The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.

If you feel exam stress is impacting on the relationships in your family, The Spark can offer support, advice and counselling to tackle difficult issues.

Find out more about private counselling – for parents and families – or freephone 0808 802 0050. You can also contact our Relationship Helpline for free support with relationship problems or check out our free parenting resources online.

Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from 17 locations providing local counselling and support.

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