Exam season is upon us and I’ve had really mixed feeling about watching my 10 year old son as he prepares for his SATs. On the one hand I am proud of how hard he is working, but on the other hand, I feel as though the pressure he is under is too much too young, especially as these exams won’t really affect his future or ever been seen on his CV. *sigh *
So, with this increasing pressure at school and the ever-apparent need to achieve high grades, how can we best support our children through exam season?
I’ve written myself a little ‘Exam season SOS’ to keep me doing all I can to help my son through his SATs. Maybe these tips will come in handy for you too (and please feel free to comment with your own tips).
Before exam time arrives talk to your child about any worries they may have and ask them what you can do to help. On exam days, it may be as simple as walking to school instead of driving, to help them clear their head. Or maybe they would like to go to the park after school, instead of straight home? Think about some small things you can do to help ease the pressure or make their day a bit more fun.
On exam day, set alarms early to give everyone plenty of time to prepare calmly with no rushing. Get everything ready as early as possible and allow extra time just in case of any last minute panics.
Try to encourage your child to have a decent breakfast on an exam day. We are super lucky that my son’s school are providing a free breakfast club during exams, to allow them all to eat together and take the opportunity to settle down before exams begin. Mornings can be such a rush, but getting up early means you can use your extra time to sit down, eat something and chat. Not only will your child be well fuelled for the day ahead, but they will have had a chance to stop and take a little mental break before the day ahead.
For tea, I’ve promised to cook Oliver some of his favourite meals. It might not seem like much help, but at the end of a tough day of exams, having your favourite tea is very comforting.
Bedtime is likely to be when nerves and anxiety kick in. To help calm your child down, try a bit of gentle, relaxing chat and maybe some meditation. The night before a big exam, encourage your child to get comfortable, eyes closed and just relax, whilst you give them a calm, encouraging talk. You can use a script like this one to talk them through, or just calmly relax them in your own way with a story or positive reinforcement about the upcoming challenge ahead.
The most important thing to remember…
Is to tell your child that THEIR BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH! Even if you say it a thousand times, you can never shout this message out enough. It’s so easy for children (and adults!) to constantly compare themselves. We need to help our kids to understand that every person is different and has special and unique talents, and that trying their best is the only thing they can do. It’s so hard to reinforce this message when children are put through standardised tests and compared by the system. The important message is that not everyone is academic, and not everyone succeeds in life through exam taking. If an exam goes wrong or is really hard, it doesn’t mean they have failed or that opportunities end there.
Top tip: At the end of each day, talk over the exams your child has taken. Discuss any issues, worries or thoughts and then wave good bye to each one, letting them know there’s nothing more to be done and that you’re really proud of them.
6. Have fun!
After it’s all over, take some time out to have fun and let loose together. Let your kids choose somewhere to go or something fun to do such as a picnic or a day out. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just full of fun and no exam talk!
Good luck parents…it will soon be over!