How best to support your child during their GCSEs

Friday 4 May 2018

GCSE exams are looming and households up and down the country will be feeling the strain. Teenagers will be stressed and parents will be in the thick of it. Luckily, there are things you can do to relieve the tension and make the period manageable – and successful – for everyone.

Girl doing her exams

Last minute revision: By this point in time, the reams of notes will hopefully have been condensed on to small memory cards that you can go through with your child in the run up to the final exams. Make sure they continue to take breaks between revision (no more than 40 minutes followed by a break of up 10 minutes) and eat well. You can help by providing regular meal times and healthy snacks. Why else have blueberries become known as ‘brain berries’?

Be in the know: It’s important you know what is going on and when, so make sure you a have a copy of your child’s exam timetable. You don’t have to stick it on the fridge, just ensure everyone is aware of it.

Be at home: If possible, try and be at home during study leave and the exams themselves so that you can be on hand for a chat and cup of tea at revision breaks and pre/post exams. A listening ear goes a long way.

Be understanding: We don’t just mean avoiding saying how ‘0-Levels were so much harder in my day’ (though, for the record, this shouldn’t be mentioned - not ever), we mean having a quiet word with the whole family so that everyone knows what your teen is going through. Younger siblings may not understand just how stressful exams can be, and a bit of understanding can make sure being at home is as stress free as possible for them.

Take the focus off the exam: A recent article in TES about reducing exam stress mentions Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory. It’s all about focusing on your future plans, so, in this case, seeing exams as a stepping stone to all the great stuff that’s still to come in life - becoming a Chef or playing football professionally. If students simply stick with the notion that they’ll fail English because they’ve always been bad at English, their ‘fixed mindset’ means they probably won’t do very well.

Encourage them to ask questions: Even if they’re currently off on study leave, their teachers are still in school and willing to help. If they are stuck with something or just need some advice, let them know that help is always available. 

Not all of these points may be relevant to your situation, and no one knows your child better than you. So be involved, but not overbearing, and listen to what they need from you.

Good luck!

For more information, take a look at these great sources we referred to:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/23/how-to-help-your-teenagers-revise-for-exams

https://www.mumsnet.com/education/exam-survival-tips

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/helping_with_exams/

https://www.tes.com/news/six-ways-reduce-exam-stress-gcse-students

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10100363

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