Every year children sit SATS tests, GCSE’s, Highers, A Levels and as such this is a stressful time for children and their families. So how can you help ensure that your child copes with this additional pressure?
Evidence suggests that sometimes, without knowing it, parents can add to the pressure. So give your children lots of positive feedback before and after each exam. Ask them about the exam afterwards but get them to focus on the positive aspects, rather than mistakes they think they made. Then encourage them to draw a line and move on to the next exam.
Junk food and fizzy drinks will not help feed the brain or induce calmness! Make sure your child eats a good balanced diet, with lots of protein and fruit and vegetables. Make sure they stay hydrated with drinks like water. Teenagers in particular can become low on iron, vitamin D and calcium so look out for leafy green vegetables, and cereals fortified with iron.
Exercise is proven to help boost energy levels and clear the head. So whether it’s swimming, a run, or simply taking a walk in the park, encourage your child to take exercise breaks.
Do make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Sleep itself is crucial for the brain to absorb and process the revision of the day. Try to avoid electronics in the bedroom as they can severely disrupt sleep. Some families even have ‘electronic holidays’ during revision time. How much sleep a child needs is dependent on the exercise they do and their lifestyle. Interestingly the Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic suggest that children aged 11 should be getting around 10 hours sleep a night, children aged 14-16 around 9 hours.
It’s important that your child can talk to you about how they are feeling. Do tell your child that feeling a little nervous or stressed is very natural. The key message here is for them to see nerves as natural and to harness the nerves to a positive use. Planning is key as is looking at ways to reduce stress, like exercise and taking breaks and seeing friends. But the more you talk to your child you will know how they are thinking and feeling and you can then support them.
Ensure that your child has a quiet place to work. Help them plan their revision, planning in itself can reduce stress as it can help them see how they will get all their revision covered. A revision timetable can be a good idea as you can encourage them to build breaks in and vary the subjects. You could also help them revise by getting hold of past papers or testing them on questions.
Do look out for signs that your child may be suffering from stress. This could include headaches, not sleeping, being very irritable, not eating properly, and being very negative. If by talking to your child and helping them you feel the stress is getting out of control then do seek help. The sooner you do this the better. A visit to your GP could be a good start. Another idea is to talk to your child’s school, particularly if there is a teacher that you find approachable to talk to. Parents can also get advice from Young Minds helpline on 0808 802 5544