As a mother of three, whose two eldest have already done their SSCE, and youngest is sitting them next year, I know all too well how demanding exams are, and how much stress they can cause – both to the teens sitting the exams, and to their parents.
For many families SSCEs are the first major set of exams their children have faced, and it can come as a huge surprise to see just how much the pressure can affect everyone in the family
First things to do, is to keep an eye out for any symptoms of stress in your teen.
Stress can affect people in many ways, and just being aware of any changes in your child’s behaviour is very important. Here are a few ways you can support your teen:
A problem shared
If your child does seem to be struggling with the stress, the next step is to talk with them about it, gently, and see what they are finding most difficult – and then to try and find ways together that will help. The more children can talk about their worries, the more parents can help work with them to reduce the stress. Talking often alleviates a huge amount of worry, if it’s done calmly, and supportively.
Adopt healthier habits
Simple things like reminding your teen to go to bed an hour earlier, switch off their phones an hour before bed and not have them in the bedroom or going outside every day for a walk or other form of exercise as well as cutting down on caffeinated drinks if they have any, can all help.
Don’t forget the small stuff
Encourage your teen to write a list of manageable things to do each day. It is hugely effective to reduce stress and can help to make your teen feel they have achieved something and are in control of their life and work. Even if some of these are ‘get up’, ‘get dressed’, ‘go for a walk’, just being able to tick things off really helps.
Put things into perspective
Finally, try to play down the worry of exams – there is SO much pressure piled on by schools and peers, that it’s often parent’s job to down-play things a little, and ease the pressure. Even just calling them ‘tests’ rather than ‘exams’ can help, as can explaining that it’s not the be-all- and-end- all of their lives, if they don’t quite get the grades they want.
Set their sights on the summer break
In addition to the above, I’d encourage parents to support their teens in signing up to NCS this summer. Not only will it give them something positive to focus on when they’re feeling stressed, but it also has a proven track record in improving the confidence of teens.
A huge 81% of NCSers said that they felt capable of more than they had realised as a result of completing the programme and I can only imagine how wonderful it was for the parents of these teens to hear about their new-found sense of self belief.
There are still places available this summer for Year 11 students to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity.