How to support your child study for their GCSEs
We want our children to do well in exams and effective revision plays a crucial role. Whilst you can’t revise for your child, there are lots of ways you can help them. This ranges from checking what they know and helping them remember things, to providing the right homelife so that they can be at their most alert, healthy and resilient. Taking GCSEs is a big step in a teenager’s development. They are reaching the middle to oldest children in the school, they’re working toward actual qualifications which will affect decisions they make later about their future and they are beginning to feel grown up. This is an ideal time for you to help them form good habits that will set them up for the future, not only in terms of lifestyle (eating the right foods, being active, building resilience) but also in helping them discover which ways of learning suit them most and which environments limit them versus which help them flourish. Effective revision also requires developing and growing essential life skills, such as good time management; the ability to deal with situations when things go wrong; and finding the right balance between work and play. These are areas where you have lots of experience and can help them develop systems that work best for them.
Sleep Sleep is an essential element for optimum health, so make sure your child is getting enough rest. Teenagers need a lot of sleep given the huge changes taking place in their bodies – somewhere between eight and ten hours each night. Tempting though it may be for them to revise into the small hours, they will be much better off putting work aside and settling down for an early night. Work backwards! If they have to get up at 7.00 am, then they need to be asleep by 11.00 pm – which probably means being in bed much earlier.
Eating Food is fuel for the body, so making sure they eat at regular intervals with plenty of healthy ingredients is vital. Try to ensure they have a healthy breakfast before leaving the house (even if it is only cereal), provide a packed lunch and a nutritious supper in the evening. Staying hydrated The teenage body is made up of around 60% water. Not drinking enough water reduces productivity, both mentally and physically, and symptoms can include tiredness, confusion, reduced energy levels and the temptation to snack when not actually hungry (thirst is often mistaken for hunger). Health experts recommend adults drink at least two litres of water each day. This equates to roughly eight 250ml glasses.
Creating the right environment to help your child study for their GCSEs Help them find a calm space to revise. Things to consider are noise levels, lighting, ability to store their papers tidily, not being disturbed by other family members. Different people have different needs, for some, background music is helpful to studying, for others it’s a distraction. Different locations can help some children, so rather than always working in their bedroom, they might like to use the dining room, or living area from time to time. Give your child space to work out what works best for them (which may not be what works best for you). If there’s not a good place to revise at home, maybe they could spend time in a local library or a local café with wifi, to help inspire them by providing a different environment (and where adults working can act as role models). Varying the revision space can be helpful in creating new energy to take in things differently.
For more ideas on how to help your child revise, read our article on helping your child with their revision.
Establishing routine Routine is important, not only when it comes to creating a revision timetable, but also for homelife in general. People respond well to routine and by creating regular activities at regular times, you are creating your own family rituals and traditions. Try to set breakfast, dinner, family time, family activities at similar times to create stability and familiarity. It can be difficult when everyone has their own schedule but it is worth having some anchor points throughout the week when you all get together, such as breakfast at 7.15 am on weekdays or at 9.00 am at weekends, or family dinners on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6.30 pm.
Taking breaks It’s vital for effective study that your child takes regular breaks (both long and short) – without feeling guilty! Creating regular activities at regular times of the day will help your child take breaks from revising as well as improve their time-management skills by having to organise revision around these times Sit with your child and help them work out a revision timetable, planning months ahead of exam time - not just weeks before! Smaller, regular revisions sessions are usually much more productive than cramming (or leaving everything to the last minute) so starting revision well in advance is a good strategy. Also, it leaves time to adjust and adapt if what seemed like a good idea in theory doesn’t prove as helpful in practice. Short breaks When helping them create a revision timetable, ensure they factor in five or ten minute breaks within 30 or 60 minute study sessions. Short bursts of studying produce much better results than long stretches. Even if they have to study all day or all evening, they should not do more than an hour at a time without having a short rest. Long breaks It’s important for them to take time out and do things they enjoy – such as watching a film, being part of their regular sports team, attending a concert, spending time with friends and family. Not only does this give the brain a chance to switch off, refocus and assimilate information, it’s an important way to find an appropriate work-play balance to ensure a productive and happy life in the long term. Try and help them ensure their breaks include a variety of different activities (not just staying in their room watching a Netflix series). Taking a day off From time to time, we all need to take a break. When things get tough, it can sometimes be helpful to step away from the problem and revisit it with a calm mind and renewed outlook rather than struggle on. If, on occasion, your child doesn’t stick rigidly to their revision timetable, don’t worry, they are probably doing enough to stay on track. If you don’t think they are, and the school agrees, it might be time to work out different rules to help them refocus.
For more information on helping your child study for their GCSEs, you may be interested in The Parents’ Guide to Exam revision (GCSEs) 2020-2021.