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Study Guide case study: Professor Deirdre Heenan

As a mother of three young school children, I know only too well that exams are stressful for parents as well as children. May and June the traditional exam months (when we can be assured of summer weather), can see the most calm, content households transformed into unrecognisable centres of strain, edginess and unease. Parents want to help, but are unsure of what approach to take.

There is a fine line between encouraging and nagging, helping and interfering, assisting and dominating. Should one adopt a mix of carrots and sticks or are bribes always preferable to threats? Should Facebook, PS3 and X Box be strictly off limits? Are tests, scores, modules and assessments the only topic of conversation? Yes of course exams are important, but it is essential to maintain perspective and remember that a well-intentioned but misguided approach can heighten tension, cause conflict and damage relationships. If you have teenagers who are highly driven and adore studying, lucky you! If like most of us, you need to motivate, here are some tips which you may find useful:

1. Stay positive and be encouraging.

Constantly reminding your child about their lack of study or poor performance can be deflating and damage motivation. Focus on the positive, the fact that they have ability and remind of them of when they did well.

2. Reiterate your support

You cannot study for your children but are willing to assist and support as required. Encourage independent, structured learning but do not appear too busy to test knowledge or read over answers.

3. Be realistic

Children cannot study all day every day and balance is important. As them how long they think they need for studying. Encourage them establish realistic study times with regular breaks. This will enable them to gradually become more independent with their study habits.

4. Expectations

What do you expect from your child? Make sure they you are not too demanding and adding unnecessary pressure. For example, if a child isn’t a ‘whizz’ at mathematics let them know you’re more than happy with their best. Remember that an ‘A’ is not the only pass grade! Maintain perspective; remember many exams are simply a means to an end.

5. Diet & Exercise

Ensure a healthy diet is maintained and avoid copious amounts of junk food, however don’t forget a bar of chocolate is ‘mood-elevating’ and does contain ‘endorphins’. And of course there is nothing like the great outdoors for clearing the head – a walk, a run, a game of footy not to mention a visit to the swimming pool.

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