How to help your teen revise for their exams
Keep Calm and Carry On Revising!
As a parent, watching your child going through the stresses and strains of exams can be very hard. If you are anything like me, it’s a very fine balancing act between saying the ‘right’ thing and the ‘wrong’ thing. Obviously, everything you want to do and say is in your child’s very best interests but get that judgement wrong and it could be the trigger for tears and tantrums, fuelled by their own internal pressures.
So much is pinned on their success at these stages. For the past few years, the message they have been given is that great GCSEs means their chance to take their A-levels of choice, with a view to passing their A-levels to get into their university of choice, and thus pave the way to a successful career of their choice.
It is, for most students, pretty much the be-all and end-all, and God forbid they fall at these final hurdles. That’s pressure and it’s the first ‘real’ pressure many of these students will have faced. Thanks to Covid, it’s the first proper set of exams A-level students have had to sit, and we are aware this has significantly increased the anxiety for many across the country. But to some extent, the present education system means that this is the reality for every Year 11 or 13 at this time of the year.
Positively, the fact is that very few of these students will eventually follow the career path they are envisaging now. So, while it feels tough to expect 16-18 year olds to decide on their future plans now, those rigid expectations of what success looks like aren’t quite as clear cut as they may seem to daunted Year 13s!
What IS desperately important, however, is getting the grades. Getting the grades means that they have options, and options in life are the golden ticket. That’s why every parent just wants to ensure they child ‘does their best’ - but how can you help them to achieve this?
Revision tips for parents
You know your child best so how you support them will be governed on their needs. There are however three fundamental ways this support can be given:
mental support; and
1. Supporting your child’s physical needs when revising -
As exams get closer and closer, revision tends to get more and more intense. Encourage your child to take regular breaks to help keep the mind fresh and allow their brain absorb and retain that crucial information. They won’t feel guilty about having a break if you suggest it and it’s part of their schedule!
Opt for brain-healthy snacks
Grabbing a quick sugary snack might seem like a quick energy boost to get through a few more hours of work, but try and encourage them to eat healthily.
Oily fish, eggs, leafy greens, and fresh fruit are not only much better for their overall health, but have been proven to improve brain function!
Try to discourage eating sugar and junk, which can have quite the opposite effect (although the odd treat here and there won’t harm).
Teenagers are like houseplants – so keep them watered!
Lots of students complain of headaches when they revise, and it has been found that dehydration is a significant cause.
Help keep their bodies firing on all cylinders by encouraging them to drink plenty of water - a large drinks bottle next to them will help. Dehydration can lead to loss of concentration and can slow down their overall cognitive processing, so it’s really important to keep drinking.
Healthy body, healthy mind
The Latin phrase ‘‘Anima Sana in Corpore Sano’ translates to a ‘sound mind in a sound body’.
While some may go into a spin at the thought of leaving their desks, by encouraging your child to build some exercise into their revision schedule, you are helping to oxygenate their brains and release some tension. This in turn helps to keep calm, mentally relax, and study more efficiently.
Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy sleep pattern, which many students struggle with around this time, but which is crucial for revision and exam success. It also triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, hormones in the brain which are key to mood and attention span.
They don’t need to be running a 10k; even as little as a brisk walk can do wonders to power them up for that next revision session!
2. Supporting your child’s mental needs when revising The magic of meditation
Fortunately really popular for the Gen Z fraternity, meditation provides a sense of calm that can benefit both your child’s health and emotional wellbeing, especially when preparing for exams.
Even a 5-minute session could make a real difference. There are lots of free apps they can access so it’s a piece of inner calm accessible for all.
Brains need their beauty sleep
While many will want to burn the midnight oil poring over their books, sleep plays a fundamental role in helping to filter and store everything they’ve learnt during the day, so try and encourage your child to get as much sleep as possible.
Self-care and sleep hygiene specifically are again very popular with this age group, so helping them to get into a really positive night-time routine is something they will hopefully embrace.
Our top 3 tips for a revision-boosting night’s sleep:
Encourage them to avoid too much caffeine (especially in the evening)
Put phones and other devices away at least an hour before bed to avoid the effects of ‘blue’ light - I know that’s SOOO much harder to do than to write, but at least try!
As before, encouraging exercise during the day will help with sleep at night.
All of this will pay huge dividends in the revision stakes!
Lend a hand, wherever you can
Wherever you can, help them with their revision. You really don’t need to be an expert on any subject to support them. Help them to organise their workspaces, make them drinks, schedule their revision time effectively and be there to test them, whatever helps.
If anything, the latter may make them feel confident and superior in their knowledge!!
3. Supporting your child’s emotional needs when revising Visualise success
Another extremely useful strategy to help with exam preparation is visualisation. This can really help your child keep you calm and reduce anxiety on the approach to exams.
When stress strikes, ask them to try the following:
Visualise themselves walking into the exam room
Look around them at the other students
They look down and see the exam paper in front of them
Imagine themselves writing out their name and details on the cover
Take a deep breath as they turn over the paper and look at the questions
Experience the feeling of confidence as they know they have prepared well for this exam
Visualise themselves completing the exam in full and in time
Enjoy that sense of satisfaction and confidence as they walk out of the exam room
Visualisation can really help students remain centred and confident throughout their exams, so it’s definitely worth a try!
Set the tone with your own emotions
Most importantly, you need to remain calm and positive (no matter how worried you may be yourself). Having an anchor and someone truly on their side is just what your child needs.
Effective parental support is fundamental to a students’ success in their exams. Therefore, giving them the right sort of encouragement and helping them prepare themselves mentally, physically and emotionally for the coming weeks should be your raison d’être wherever possible.
I’ve tried everything – why won’t my child revise?
The final and most important thing is that you know your child best so what may work for others may not work for your son or daughter.
Speak to them about how you want to help and ask what you can do and give them the support you know they need. Knowing you are there for them will mean the world and just encouraging them to ‘keep calm and carry on revising’ will be the best support you can possibly give.
Everyone here at Yipiyap wishes you and your child all the very best of luck for the exams. We will leave you with our amazing tutor Alex’s 10-minute crash course for preparing for your exams. We hope this helps!
GUEST PUBLICATION BY YIPIYAP
Catherine Birkett is the Co-Founder and COO of Yipiyap. Yipiyap has been instrumental in developing the peer tutoring sector for over a decade, working alongside gap year students to provide relatable peer tutors to schools and colleges across the UK.
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