Exams and parental stress

Exam time is upon us once more and if you’ve a revising student in your home at the moment, it’s likely to be a highly-strung environment. We see lots of articles about helping students cope with exam pressures. Indeed, I’ve posted plenty on this very blog. However, I’ve noticed that there’s very little in the way of help for parents. Which is strange because exams and parental stress go hand in hand in many families.

It would be easy to say just avoid your beloved off-spring until the exams are finished! However, we know that is not an option and while they may not show it, our children need our support at this troubling time.

When it comes to dealing with parental stress around exams, it’s important to realise that as a parent, we’re largely passengers on this journey. We’ve given guidance, encouragement, discipline, motivation and praise. We may have helped with studies ourselves and may have also engaged the services of additional help in the form of a private tutor. Regardless of the exact details, it’s likely you’ll have done all that your circumstances allow to influence a positive outcome.

For the build-up, you’ve had an element of control which has made you feel better, although still nervous for your child. However, it’s now down to them and it always strikes me that this is why it’s such a stressful time to be a parent. We can’t revise for them and there’s simply nothing we can do once they walk into the exam hall. We are powerless.

It’s tempting then, to get involved and try to assert some control by asking questions of each facet of the process? Are they meeting with their study buddy, asking all the necessary questions of their teachers, eating the marvellously nutritious lunches we’re sending them to school with? And you’re not staying up half the night messaging your friends, are you? You know you need 8 hours of solid sleep… So the list goes on.

And breathe. We can’t back-seat drive this vehicle. Our children are in control and we have to trust them to make the most of this pre-exam time. Heaping more pressure on them is not helpful to anyone, yourself included.

Instead, try to simply be there for when they need you. Maybe heed some of the advice about quality sleep, a nutrient-packed diet and plenty of water! Stress takes it toll and it pains me to say the effects are worse as we age!

So, be kind to yourself, while helping your son or daughter through this unnerving time.

Be positive, supportive and let them know that you know they’ll do their best on the day. Nobody can do more than that.

Whatever the outcome, exams are not life and death and we live to fight another day.

Come August and results time, I’m sure you’ll be able to look back on this time and laugh…