Examinations are upon us, and, along with them, the pressure for students to do well.
With the examination season in full swing, more young people are finding it hard to cope with the pressure. "Cracking up", is much more common than many parents realise and, once it has happened, is difficult to treat. For parents, there is a difficult line to tread between setting expectations and encouraging a child to work towards challenging goals, as opposed to placing children in situations where they cannot cope or putting them under unreasonable pressure at home.
The reasons why examination stress is becoming a much more common complaint are complex. At one level, society now recognises stress – the advice used to be simply to "pull oneself together" – but also schools are changing. As they are set more demanding targets by government, many are encouraging competition among pupils and fostering an ethos that does not tolerate failure.
A contributory factor in many cases of stress is the assumption by parents and relatives that examinations used to be harder "in their day". There is minimal evidence for this point of view, although any GCSE student will tell you that they have heard it expressed within the last few weeks.
Another factor in creating stress is the inability to structure study. Study patterns are set very early in a child's school career but are usually not taught in schools. It is almost impossible to revise for an exam without notes you have made yourself, but it is common to find students wading through textbooks or searching hopefully on the Internet in the days leading up to their first papers.
The best way to combat stress is to recognise and deal with it. It is perfectly normal to feel stress over examinations – it is a matter of finding the best strategies to reduce it. Stress becomes a problem when parents and children handle it by denying its presence or by doing things to reinforce it. For parents, making a family joke of a child's anxieties or imposing a revision schedule are sure ways of increasing the stress burden.
How to cope with stress:
- Don't go on about it. Being asked how you feel often makes things worse. Try to be a listener rather than to give advice. It is normal to say that each examination paper was a total disaster, so don't join the inquest!
- Be encouraging. Even if your child has been lazy over the past few months, now is not the time to bring it up. Don't organise family visits and days out as entertaining distractions, either.
- Talk to teachers if you're worried. An apparently stressed child at home may be coping well at school and vice versa.
- Avoid the doctor. Slamming doors, arguing pointlessly and crying are simple safety valves and not a cause for worry. However, watch out for the child who is having real difficulty sleeping or is very quiet and withdrawn, or the one who is apparently "studying" diligently but really doing nothing – copying out the text book, for example. Watch out for side-effects. The stress of examinations can easily bring unrelated emotional issues and physical complaints to the surface.
- Relax for an hour a day at least – listen to music, watch television or take exercise.
- Revise hard in slots of an hour or less – write rather than read – and take a 10-minute break (time yourself) in-between.
- Get regular sleep and avoid too much junk food and caffeine (coffee, Coke and tea). The best revision is done in the morning.
- Don't wind yourself and your friends up with frenzied hyperactivity. Stop planning your after-exams parties and holiday.
With only weeks left, if you are feeling the strain of exam pressure then perhaps some professional advice to guide you where you child needs to focus on could help you and your child. With a free initial assessment at 2KickStartU, you can get a granular report which will outline the areas that need to be bridged, so that the precious time left until the exams commence is spent wisely.
Call us now and we can further discuss how we can help you on 020 8685 0673 or if you prefer take a look at our webiste www.2kickstartu.co.uk