I thought watching both my teenage kids go through GCSE exams for two consecutive years was tough. That was until Holly started doing her A-levels and her workload and the associated pressures felt as though it had increased ten-fold.
If I look back to my own A-levels I remember it being a bit of a shock to the system. A-levels are intense and I think the sheer amount of work has shocked Holly.
Holly chose 3 A-level subjects: Photography, Psychology and English Literature. There is, of course, a lot of reading involved in Psychology and English Literature. Photography is very coursework heavy, all subjects are an incredible amount of work but she’s managed so well. She has just finished her first year of A-level exams and we can now all breathe a sigh of relief, until the results day, of course!
When it comes to the children having exams I always make sure I do whatever I can to help alleviate any potential stress. I buy in ‘brain food’ especially for the occasion ensuring Holly leaves each morning having eaten a really good breakfast, which usually consists of scrambled eggs on a wholemeal bagel. She also enjoys ice cold water with lemon in a jug and I’m happy to keep her topped up during study sessions and provide copious cups of tea and hot chocolate for when her friends come round to revise with her.
Ways to help reduce exam stress:
You can help your teen reduce the exam stress by helping them establish effective study and learning habits:
- Help your child find a quiet place to study without distractions. Make sure their table is uncluttered so they can focus better.
- Encourage your child to find out exactly what the exam involves – are there past exam papers they can look at to help them understand what to expect?
- Encourage your child to ask for help if they need it. Leading up to her exams I re-read the English Literature texts Holly was given so that we could talk about the texts together.
- Help them to make ‘mind maps’ to collect ideas and summarise thoughts – you can also make up songs or raps to help remember key information.
- Help them to plan their study schedule early on so they have enough time to study.
- Remind your child to take a short rest and move around in between each part of their study.
- Encourage your child to stick to a routine of going to bed at a reasonable time (not always easy with a teenager but I insisted Holly was in bed at a decent hour)
- Motivate them to eat regularly and make time to have fun and exercise. Holly and I regularly practice yoga together to help reduce stress and practice mindfulness.
- Encourage them to drink lots of water.
- Encourage them to eat fresh fruit, veggies, cereals, grains, nuts and protein – they are all good for the brain and blood sugar levels.
- Arrange for a treat for the end of exams so they have something to look forward to and work towards.
- Calming scents such a lavender can be incredible stress relievers. Apply a couple of drops of lavender essential oil to a tissue and encourage children to carry it with them and breathe in the scent to help relieve anxiety.
How do Bristol schools help children with exam stress?
-A school in Bedminster down introduced bowls to children in a bid to help reduce exam stress. Steve Priday, head of citizenship, said:
I wanted to try something new, low-cost but with high skill levels and bowls has suited the brief entirely.In the run-up to exams it is a great way to de-stress
-At Fairfield school, Year 10 and 11 students took part in an Ace Your Exams seminar run by Elevate Education. Students learnt key exam tips such as planning what to revise ahead of exams and breathing techniques to use before their exams took place. The students who took part were surveyed and 94% of them would recommend the program to other students with 85% stating they felt the programme was time well spent.
– My personal favourite stress reliever was the ‘Puppy Love’ initiative at Bristol University. Students were invited to cuddle guide dogs and their puppies in a bid to provide some respite to the stresses and strains of exam revision. Sarah Knox, Community Fundraiser for Guide Dogs, said:
Guide dogs are most pleased to be able to work with the University of Bristol and allow students the chance to de-stress at this busy exam time.
Aww, now doesn’t that sound like the best type of stress reliever?
Good luck to everyone taking exams this summer!
How do you help your children with exam stress? Share your tips in the comments.