It’s that time of year, almost the end of the academic year, for many, and for us, it’s a new challenge. The tween is facing her first proper set of school exams. She is coming to the end of year 7 and over the next two weeks has 10 exams in various subjects. The exams are quite tough and she is expected to do well.
She has been revising and generally works hard and does well in her schoolwork so we have sat her down and told her the following things:
“Exams are part of school life. They are just a test, and sometimes they seem very scary but they are simply a way for the school to see how you are doing, and also for the school to see how it is doing. You need to do your best, but don’t stress too much”
She knows she has our support, and that we know she has worked hard. We know that in a couple of years, she will face GCSE’s which are very tough, and will keep her on her toes and more, so this in a way is good practice for her, and her school is trying to get them into the frame of mind to face exams so GCSE’s don’t seem like a massive mountain to be afraid of, but it’s all about balance. I personally think that exams are a total waste of time, making someone brain dump under pressure but society makes children do exams at school in order to make progress into adult life, so we have to go with that and make sure our kids are prepared, and can cope with them as much as we can.
So, for us, first time round exam parents, the next two weeks is about supporting our tween.
Some tips we thought we would share that we think are helpful, partly from what we are doing, and partly from what I have gleaned from other families who have been there and done that, that might be helpful if you are facing exams with your kids.
Despite their desire to stay up late, tweens and teens need sleep. Making sure they get to bed on time, and a good night’s sleep, and aren’t up too early will help them to feel as rested as possible. Trying to do an exam when you are sleep deprived is horrible (I have been there and done that) so making sure they are in bed, at a sensible time, with no screens or tv to keep them awake is our first move.
Brains need food, to function. Tweens and teens are ALWAYS HUNGRY. So making sure they get a decent breakfast, are getting a good filling lunch, and a proper dinner, helps to feed those hungry, working hard brains. The tween has snacks and water in her locker, and I am making sure she is eating well at breakfast and dinner, and nagging her to choose something filling but sensible (not too many heavy carbs, that can make you feel sleepy after lunch, not what you need when you have to describe Romeo & Juliet in great detail or face a barrage of geometry questions in stuff exam hall) and making sure she is getting a good meal at night when she gets home from school.
When in doubt, take a break from revising and help mum bake…
RELAX: Whilst she has to revise and work for her exams, she also needs to take time away from studying, switch her brain off and relax. She has decided her own revision schedule but I am keeping half an eye on her, that she takes breaks, and also that she has some time away from working on her revising.
This is good for helping to clear heads, relax bodies, and relieve tension. We have kept up her dance and swim classes as well as me dragging her out for the odd walk even if it is raining.
Life as a tween is a bit of a hormonal rollercoaster, so we have some serious ups and downs and wobbles, as it is. Adding the pressure of doing well to keep in the top maths and English class and you have a recipe for some moments where tears and strops will happen. Us parents keeping our sense of humour and remembering that this is all not personal, and that it’s a learning curve for our tweens is helpful. Being positive, encouraging and patient, even when our tweens are sobbing over equations that make no sense for an exam the next day, is key.
A SPACE TO WORK:
Making sure they have a quiet, calm and tidy space to work and can retreat to, to revise and study, is important. If they share a room, with siblings then maybe they need another part of the house to work? My tween has her own room, but that isn’t always possible. But making sure they have a work space and also everything they need, books, tools, and access to the internet if required, helps to keep them focused. Making sure they have all the kit they need to go into exams is vital too.
A REWARD AT THE END:
Incentives are basically how I parent. Incentives are what work for most humans, but especially tweenagers and teens. So when all the exams are done, and over, we will be taking our hard working tween out for some treats, a hair cut and a nice meal.
When all else fails, exams are part of life, we either do well or we don’t, and trying to make things go as easily and smoothly as possible, and keep stress to a minimum, and help our tweens and teens cope, hopefully will mean we come out on the positive end of things.
One exam down, a few to go. She was nervous this morning, but came home to a chocolate donut, a hug from her mum and “I think I did ok, I am glad it’s over” and we face the rest as they come. I think she will do well, my most important job is to get her to believe in herself and be there for her, no matter what the exams throw at her.
Have you got any exam tips to help us parents out there, facing them, for maximum survival success?