7 Ways To Help Your Teenager Manage Exam Stress

The stress of formal exams is a tricky one to negotiate for both teenagers and their parents: The stress of doing well, the stress of what will happen afterwards and the stress of what to do with their lives in the future can all take its toll. I actually think our teenagers have many stresses  that they have to deal with and it seems to be much more than I remember as a teenager growing up in the 1980’s.

I know a little about exam stress as one of my children has A’Levels this summer whilst the other has GCSE’s! Obviously, with a two year gap between my children, I knew this day would come but it seems to have rushed towards us since September!  I worry about them as any parent would and want to help them as much as possible so, here are my top tips for managingexam stress at this time in their lives.

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What Can We Learn From Our Teenagers?

I wrote recently about how, as adults, we sometimes lose the ability to see the wonder in things and we should look to how young children view the world to really see how amazing it is. Well, this got me thinking about how teenagers see the world!
Teenagers and young people also see the world in a very different way to adults don’t they? They engage in their world in their own way and I think we misjudge teenagers sometimes. We often hear phrases such as ‘misguided’, ‘carefree’ or ‘out of control’ to describe teens and this is unfair. I wonder how many adults could learn a thing or two from our young people? Adults often describe their life as ‘boring’,  ‘in a rut”, ‘being on a treadmill’ or ‘mundane’. Well, perhaps we need to look towards our teenagers and young people and see how they live their lives, remember those things and engage in our world through their eyes?
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How to teach kindness and build the self esteem of our children.

‘Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.’ —Annie Lennox

As a parent and a teacher I want my own children and the children I teach to know how to be kind. I actually believe that kindness is the most important thing for children to feel fulfilled and happy themselves. Unkindness in others tells me that the person is actually unhappy, they are stressed or something in their life is not right. Emotional resilience is more important than academic success or sporting prowess because without it you will always feel unhappy.
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What do I miss?

I have amazing children who are now almost grown. I started this blog because I found that although I was working part time, I finally had time to do something else. My parenting days are far from over but my teenagers just don’t physically need me as much and it happened quite suddenly. It crept up on me when I found myself alone one Saturday afternoon enjoying a cup of tea and realised that I didn’t need to be anywhere! It got me thinking about all the things that used to drive me nuts that I was actually now missing. It’s as if my “parenting routines comfort blanket” has been removed and I am now thinking about how I should replace it. I’m feeling sad and possibly hormonal (ahh the menopausal brain) so bear with me but I miss my children being little….
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The pressure on our teens and how we can help them.

I wrote this last summer but with my teenagers now taking A Levels and GCSE’s, it’s even more relevant.

My teenagers are both are on the conveyor belt of studying and taking exams and seem to think that their exams are THE most important thing ever. Whilst I praise their enthusiasm for exam preparation and study, I’m struck by how much pressure there seems to be on their very young shoulders and that worries me as their mum. It is also worrying me as a teacher to hear about so many young people with anxiety or stress related conditions. There is so much emphasis on passing tests and exams in the school system these days that the love of learning something new has been squeezed out of their experience. My children look at school work as a torture and something to get done so that they can move on to the next part. Where is the wanting to find out about an aspect of their learning that has inspired them? It’s just the wrong way round isn’t it?
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How can I help my child when they are struggling?

I often get asked for advice about the children of people I know. Maybe because I’m a teacher and a mum, people feel that I have more experience than they do. People often just want to know if their child is “normal”. People just want to see if what they are experiencing is explainable or ordinary. It’s so tricky being a parent isn’t it? We often are experiencing something with our children for the first time. Looking up things on the internet can often label it to be “a thing” and that is terrifying. Some parents want their child to be gifted or talented but the majority just want their children to be a typical child for their age. Unfortunately, some just aren’t but that’s ok too.
I suppose working with children, I have seen hundreds of children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old so I don’t bat an eyelid if they bite, punch, kick, eat crayons, twirl or smear poo. It’s kinda within the everyday, typical stuff that I deal with! But the ordinary things can be a worry and on occasion, can develop into behaviours that are not within the typical range.
But how do we know when to worry?

My advice is always the same:

  • Every child has quirks, just some more than others. Accept them for who they are unless their quirks are affecting others or their own happiness/development.
  • Children display different behaviours and emotions sometimes, just like adults. It may be a phase. Displays of emotion such as anger, is normal behaviour. Unfortunately some children are just more emotional than others and may need more of a structure to help them deal with them.
  • Children learn and change at different rates. Try not to compare them to others.
  • Don’t always listen to the well-meaning advice of the older generation.
  • Listen to the professionals such as your child’s teachers and really hear what they are saying. It may be that you are not ready to listen, but you should.
  • Pre-schoolers (3-4 years old) should want to be sociable and should want to show you what interests them and engage with others.
  • Pre-schoolers should play with toys in an imaginative way. E.g babies are fed, passengers can get onto trains.
  • All children should want to communicate with you from a very early age.
  • Your child should make progress in each school year but sometimes it may be more rapid than at other times. Learning does not happen at a continuous and at the same rate so don’t worry if your child makes rapid progress in Reception but this progress slows in year one.
  • If you are still worried, go and see your GP, Health visitor or child’s teacher. They really won’t mind.
  • If your child has been given a diagnosis of something scary, they are still the same child you love. Try to remember this.
  • If your child has a barrier to learning such as autism, do your research on how to help them and fight for them. No one else will.

Have a great day and keep your child close. x

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