April is “stress awareness” month. Let’s face it, most of us are aware of stress on a daily basis but April seems a pretty poignant one for those of us with kids at school. Here in the UK, May brings primary school SATs, end of year assessments, GCSEs and A levels or exams for university degree, and the pressure to do well looms large in April (for us parents too!). So how do we support them and manage the pressure-cooker at home?
- Understand what’s required and plan accordingly: It may seem obvious, but planning is key. Even if you feel that they’ve left their revision too late, spending some time not just planning revision time but understanding what’s involved in each paper and planning revision correspondingly will save a lot of heartache going forward. Focused revision gets results).
- Discuss what they’re learning (aka “test as they go”): The act of testing not only reinforces what they’ve just learned, but it increases understanding and helps for more focused study going forward. Remind them that exams are not a measure of intelligence, just the ability to tell the examiners what they want to hear ;)
- Allow them to express their frustrations and ask questions. if you can add an emotion even better. “It seems to me that you’re very frustrated or feeling overwhelmed, what is it that’s worrying you? What do you fear most?”
- Listen without offering a solution: Let your child talk if they want to and let you know what’s going on. Resist the temptation to minimise their pain or dismiss their fears – even if these exams are only internal, they may be huge for them
- Ask them what they think might help: before offering any solutions, ask them if they have any ideas as to how to deal with their problem. They know themselves better than we do, so take this as an opportunity for them to learn to problem-solve themselves.
- Teach them to listen to their bodies: Stress often shows up physically in our bodies. That tummy pain or headache might well be stress-related. Help them to spend a moment breathing into a part that’s tense, or give a stiff neck a little rub.
- Don’t over-schedule and build in downtime: even if time feels like it’s running out, research shows that people learn better when they have time off: it allows short-term learning to move into the longer-term memory. Besides, they’re still kids and we all need time to relax and play.
- Focus on good sleep, nutrition and exercise: their growing bodies and brains need plenty of all 3. They may complain, but you’ll all be better off as a result.
- Model healthy stress management: ok, we know this is hard but remember the old adage, “don’t worry about what you say in front of your kids, worry about what you do in front of them”. Our kids are like little mirrors, reflecting back to us our own traits. If they see you taking time out, exercising, eating and sleeping well they’ll be far more likely to do it for themselves.
- Be patient and just be there: revising is a process. Not everyone will shine academically and those that do will still have bad days. Celebrate the effort, remind them of their strengths, and remember exams are just barometers helping to indicate the way forward.
And of course, don’t forget to use our audios! Play them in the background while they’re revising or sleeping. Our incredibly popular and effective Calm and Relaxed is great for reducing stress levels and, as it’s available in the Core membership, can be tried free for 7 days. Sign up or log in now.