Exam season is here, and I know that can be a tough time for both children and parents. Chances are, stress levels are rising as nerves about doing well kick in.
I work with children on memory retention, study motivation, exam anxiety, study motivation, concentration and internet and computer addiction and—as with all other problems—there are always highly effective strategies you can use to diffuse anxiety and help you or your child get through the hurdle.
Parents, here are my tips to help you help your child breeze through the exam period:
1. Be prepared. There’s no better feeling than going into an exam feeling prepared. So make sure your child has a structured study plan in place that you have both discussed.
2. Don’t overdo it. Twenty minute bursts of study are much more effective for absorbing information than hours and hours in one hit. Make sure your child has regular breaks built in to the study plan.
3. Fresh air and exercise will help clarify the mind and maintain good health, so encourage them to use some of their spare time in a positive way.
4. Break it down. The best way to take in information is to break it down. Get your child to transfer bits of information on to cards that they can then carry around with them. This works in two ways: First, it means they have to go through the process of reading, extracting and condensing info. It also means they can check info easily by themselves or with a study buddy, and makes it much easier to visualise key information.
5. Make sure they get a good night’s sleep. Tiredness heightens anxiety and brain fog, so put away the games and have a relaxation period before bedtime.
6. Keep communication channels open. Check with your child how they are feeling over the exam period. This will help you to spot if they are feeling overwhelmed so that you can calm the situation and reassure them before it all gets too much for them.
7. Serve brain food. Make sure that your child is eating as healthily as possible. Avoid high sugar foods as these can feed the cycle of sugar lows that can cause a feeling of mental fogginess.
8. Put older siblings to work. If you’re lucky enough to have had older siblings go through the exam system then use them as mentors to help guide and support their younger brothers and sisters. It is always reassuring to talk to someone who’s been through the experience.
9. Focus on success and reward. Get your youngster to focus on positive feelings of success and plan a reward for when they have finished their exams that is not reliant on results, but on the amount of work they put into preparation. This way you send out a message that it is important to do your best regardless of the outcome.
10. Manage expectations. Of course it’s important to want your child to do well, but placing unattainable expectations on their shoulders can be counter productive because it causes feelings of anxiety. This can lead to underperformance as fear causes the mind to shut down and negate the ability to think critically and creatively. So have high expectations, but make sure your child knows that the world won’t end if they don’t do as well as expected.