The next few weeks will be crucial in terms of preparation, reflection and support for our students who may increasingly feel the pressure. This week’s sessions with Clive Leach should certainly be helpful in preparing the students for mental toughness and we will put his resources on moodle and the website to help you access these. The following are things the whole family can do to help.
Research has shown that parental support is eight times more important in determining a child's academic success than social class. The Campaign for Learning found that parental involvement in a child's education can mean the difference between an A* and an ‘also-ran’ grade at GCSE and IB. The report, called ‘Give Your Child a Better Chance’, by Dr Leon Feinstein of the London School of Economics, said: "Interested parents made a huge difference, regardless of class or income.”
The first thing to do that helps a child is to talk to them (not interrogate them or push them), encourage them to talk about how they are doing or feeling. This may be a daunting task for a parent of a teenager, but engaging in how you coped as an exam stressed student and showing your children you care is very important and encourages them to release what may be a stream of pent up worries and frustrations that you can help with. Rather than being seen to police your child, it is important that you are being seen to be supporting them to do their best and have the mindset that if they work hard then success is possible.
Reassurance is very important and therefore letting your child know that you love them and support them is very important. It also is vital that both partners where possible are seen to be involved in the support process. It is common in Shanghai for one parent in particular to be at work for long hours. If this working parent can show the extra effort during the day and the weekend to be seen to be involved in the pre-exam support process, research shows this to be very effective in encouraging attainment. Some schools have even set up fathers support groups to ensure that they get involved more. If you think this is an idea you would be interested in please email me. (hyperlink to my email address please)
This leads nicely on to the second point. Seek help from the school and teachers if you feel you need it. We already will have provided (or will provide) exam skills and revision skills courses to the students, given them lists of useful websites and apps, provided exam timetables, given classes on how to deal with exam stress, given students strategies for preparing successfully for exams, and importantly getting the right amount of sleep. There are very few pre-exam problems we have not come across before. Please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns or there is any help that you need.
Exams can be a stressful time for everyone in the family and therefore I provide below a list of tips to help the whole family avoid (as much as realistically possible) exam stress in the next few weeks and months. This is taken from a mental health organization in the UK that is dedicated to working with parents and young people.
The following tips should help:
- Accept this is potentially going to be a stressful time for the whole family – expect outbursts and try to remain calm.
- Try and find out as early as possible what is expected of your child and when their exams will be. These are normally posted on the school website.
- Try and work with your child and support them rather than policing them.
- Be clear that avoiding subjects they find difficult will not be helpful in the long run.
- Encourage children to talk to you if they are really worried they haven’t done enough work. Reassure them that if they do not get their expected grades, there will be other opportunities ahead, and they should just do their best.
- Find out what revision techniques are recommended by the school, and check out online revision sites.
- If you have any concerns or questions, contact the school rather than relying on your child to do it.
- Encourage your child to have a separate revision area to help put them in a frame of mind of knowing when to work (without distractions) and knowing when to relax, sleep etc.
- Encourage your child to have regular breaks, to do something they enjoy, even if it’s just half an hour off for their favourite TV programme or DVD.
- Make sure they eat healthy snacks regularly, and drink enough so they don’t get dehydrated – you can always pop your head in to see how they are doing and bring them a drink.
- Exercise is also a good way to relax, even just a walk round the block.
- Children have different ways of revising – some may prefer to be alone, others work best surrounded by low level noise and family in the house. Just because it does not work for a parent does not mean it will not work for a child. However blaring heavy metal across the whole house is a judgment call you can still make in the best interests of everyone! A quiet, spacious, distraction free learning environment is generally considered to be best, if at all possible.
- Respect their body clocks – many teenagers are more alert during the night and this may be the best time for them to revise even though it makes parents anxious! However this must be balanced with an appropriate amount of sleep (8 hours minimum).
- Immediately after an exam or hand-in, they might not want to talk about it immediately so let them decide.
- Try and plan something nice for when it’s all over – reward them for trying their best, however they feel it went.
Below are some links to a couple of straightforward websites with more tips for students and parents.
Good luck and remember to ask us if we can help at all. Clive Leach has helped me put together some mindfulness tips for exam students and I will pass these on to you next week to complement his mental toughness and wellbeing sessions for staff, students and parents this week.
- Chris Share, Head of Secondary