Parenting teenagers in the final years of their schooling is a challenge. This year, with the added layer of a global pandemic, increased anxiety levels and disruptions to the school year, times are tough. Our teenagers now face sitting exams with a disruption to their usual preparation. Many teenagers have coped really well with the altered school system this year, but unfortunately there are a large number who have not. To ease this burden there are some simple steps that you can provide to improve their support network.
One of the critical aspects when approaching exams is to encourage your teenager to be calm, confident and trust their skills. A great analogy here is looking at study as the same concept in sports performance. Learn the skills, practice the skills to mastery and trust that you can perform in competition. So the journey through education is similar to that in sport.
Too often teenagers will skip their exercise for extra study time, believing that it is more valuable at exam time. But the actual truth is the exercise is even more crucial at this time in their lives. Exercise will help reduce stress, improve their mood, increase oxygen uptake and improve their concentration and focus. It’s also vital to take regular study breaks to move, stretch and breath! Encourage them to set an alarm for every 30-45 minutes of study so they take a 5 minute break to move around and stretch.
Increasing activity levels at exam time is also positive as it will balance emotions and help regulate sleep patterns. Offer to join them for exercise, even if it’s a nice long walk, and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Exercise is a great way to open the channels of communication because it provides a relaxed environment and releases the pressure valve of senior exams.As mums it’s in our nature to want to help our kids and its challenging to see them anxious and stressed. Let them know you are there for support, keep healthy nutrition options at the ready and also a few of their favourite treats! Tim Tams are great for study snacks.
Going back to the our sport analogy a great piece of advice for teenagers is to focus on practice and skill development in the exam environment. Try practice exams for revision and simulate exam conditions. Becoming more relaxed in the exam scenario can make a big difference for the actual day
Remind them that even the best of the best can have a bad day. There are always games where our superstar athletes have failed to perform at their best. Even with optimal preparation, copious amounts of practice and skill development, things can still go wrong. We are human. Mistakes should never be feared, they are the best teachers. The most important thing is being prepared to take chances and give yourself every opportunity to excel.
Be gentle, be patient and be prepared to listen instead of speak. Provide support and encouragement. The senior years of school are an important step in their growing independence and the stress will pass. Life goes on.
Jane Kilkenny at Fitness Energy.