Tips for the exam season.
The exam season is nearly upon us. For teenagers it’s a difficult and stressful time. It’s their equivalent of a mini Olympics, a one shot deal. Frantic revision sessions, or not as the case may be, can be accompanied by sleepless nights and much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the family.
If you have teens going through exams it’s worth thinking about how to best support them.
A crucial developmental issue to get hold of at the outset is that this age group are experts in avoiding reality, its too painful. Deadlines and time constraints feel a bit too much like adult life. It’s much more comfortable to live in a world of shifting goalposts. The tension between these two world views has to be grasped if you are to support them.
The second point is don’t fall into the trap of labelling your teen lazy. This isn’t helpful, it is better to understand that their lack of effort is more likely a fear of failing or not meeting expectations.
Lets start with what not to do.
- Don’t deliver monologues on what to do. These are pointless. They know what to do they just cant do it.
- Don’t frighten them with stories about how their life prospects will be irreparably damaged if they don’t work. They are perfectly aware that exams are important.
- Don’t buy into the ‘I don’t care’ mindset. Panic is just below the surface.
All these tactics do is create more anxiety and more fear.
What to do ?
- Create realistic work routines. Little and often is better than endless hours of study. The issue here is productivity not number of hours. I am highly sceptical of those teens who like to tell others they study for hours and hours at a time.
- Try and create a peaceful study area preferably not in their bedroom. This is more of an issue for those studying for GCSE’s.
- Get them to agree to hand over their electronic devices for the duration of their study period. Recent research has found that if teens check their phone for 1 second it takes the brain 20 minutes to get back to the previous level of functioning. This is a colossal waste of time. There is absolutely no justification for having their phone by their side as they study.
- If they are reluctant to study talk to their about their fear of failing. Reinforce the notion that it is better to try and fail than not try at all. Not trying has a negative effect on self esteem
- Try and get them to let go of worrying about grades ( outcomes) and concentrate on putting in a shift on a daily basis ( process). If you have done your best then the grades become less of a focus.
- Make sure they have a revision timetable that leaves plenty of time for rest and relaxation.
- Make sure they get to bed at a reasonable hour.