Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Exams: Advice for parents

Exam time can be just as stressful for parents as teenagers but Parenting NI has urged mums and dads to stay calm over the next two months.

“We found parents who attend our parenting programmes have two main issues,” explained Jackie Valentine, director of Parenting NI. “They can’t get their child to study or the stress exams place between the parent/child relationship.”

However, Miss Valentine has some words of advice for concerned parents. “My advice is to stay calm. You need to get your priorities right and be supportive. Sometimes the parents need to stop and think about whose expectations are they - theirs or their children’s and is it what they want for their teen’s live or what their teen wants?”

She continued: “You should try and keep the family home and atmosphere calm and if there are underlying issues - marital problems, illness, bereavement, conflicts in relationships including the parent/teen try to minimise those during this important period.

“It is also a time in a teenager’s life when they are so many changes going on with their cognitive development. As parents we can see the longterm consequences of their actions but they don’t have that life experience.”

As GCSEs and A-Levels approach Ms Valentine suggests parents adopt a more lenient attitude to provide a calmer household and allow the child more time for study.

“Offer realistic incentives - we don’t advise payment to study - but reduce their chores to allow them more time for study, clean their room for them during the revision process.

“Ask but don’t badger them how they are doing, ask can you doing anything to help, make them snacks to keep their energy up etc.”

Other tips include not arguing with the child if they want to listen to music while revising as “some teens can multitask”, offer to help them make study flashcards and go over then “but if they say no don’t take it personally as they may prefer to do their revision with friends or own their own” and offer additional tutoring if your child feels they need it, get a family member or friend to help out, the school or an after school club.

She added: “Keep an eye out for children who have become withdrawn, they may be worried about their exams and not wanting to let their parents down. If you are concerned ring our parent advice line.”

Ms Valentine is also a firm believer that it is important to balance revision with relaxation.

“Encourage your child to continue their activities such as sporting interests, clubs, hobbies. There are enough hours in the week to study and relax. They need to have downtime, it comes to a stage when they have studied so many hours in one day that nothing more can go in.”

And when it comes to exam day, do not give your child a hard time if they have not done as well as expected - you can’t change the result and they will probably be feeling bad enough already.

“It is not the end of the world if they do not get the results,” said Ms Valentine. “They can resit, go to a further education college. Many parents want their teen to go to university but that may not be the best path for them, they may excel as a hairdresser.

“The key focus is getting five GCSEs at grades C and above including English and maths.”

Finally Ms Valentine has some advice for children - talk to your parents.

“When they ask you information give them more than just ‘ok’,” she commented. “Tell them what you are studying today, how long you plan to study for and be honest if you are stuck or need help.

“Everybody wants the best for you and we know it is hard but all we ask is for you to be focused for this short period of time.”

Parenting NI is a leading parenting support organisation that provides support, training and information on family issues and influencing policy, provision and practice at all levels. It also runs a parent helpline, education courses and a parents’ forum.

For more information visit http://www.parentingni.org or phone the advice line on 0808 8010 722

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