Whether your child is new to exams or an experienced pro, they could probably use some support and empathy during this unsettling time. Incorporating some practical advice to deal with stress can help exam season feel more calm for both you and them.
1. Promote healthy nutrition
One of the most vital roles of a parent is to encourage healthy eating habits. This is especially important during exam time, to ensure a steady release of energy throughout the day.
Offering students too many sugary drinks or snacks can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, and therefore concentration. Try instead to encourage a balanced diet in order to keep children healthy and focused. The Oxford Home Schooling website says that “nutritious meals while studying or revising for exams is crucial for keeping energy levels up.”
2. The secrets of good sleep
Children aged 13-18 years old should aim for eight to ten hours of sleep per night. This is essential for concentration and focus throughout the following day. Cutting back on sleep to cram in extra study sessions is probably a bad idea. In the long run, it can make students more tired and reduce their knowledge retention levels. “Students who sleep better enjoy better grades, better recall, better mood, and better health,” says The Sleep Foundation.
3. Offer your help
Your child may not ask for your help or know they could benefit from it. But offering your assistance can help students better engage with their studying, and reduce feelings of loneliness. Helping by testing their understanding, working together on a study timetable, or grading past papers can be a real motivator and make all the difference. The BBC advises parents to “encourage planning for revision… Keep a copy to check they are coping well with it.”
4. Ask about their worries
When it comes to exams, many children believe the most pressure comes from their families. In some cases, a touch of pressure may be appropriate, but try also to be supportive and reassuring in parallel. Encouraging positive affirmations and self-belief will help children with confidence going into an exam.
Communicating after exams is equally important. This can help relieve stress about what may have gone wrong, and allow students to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past. YoungMinds encourages parents to make time in the day to have these conversations with children, creating a safe space to discuss their worries.
5. Encourage other activities
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress, boost energy levels, and clear the mind. Why not join your child for a walk, bike ride, or other workout they enjoy. PBS Kids says that “They will benefit from taking some time to rest and recharge, especially during after-school homework time. Younger children can take a snack or play break.” Group activities with family or friends can also boost endorphins due to the added social interaction.
Remembering one’s faith can also play an important role during unsettling times like exam season. Encourage your child to keep their faith close, and retain a sense of perspective.
6. Try to be accommodating
Although the world doesn't revolve around your child, try to understand the stress they may be feeling and show empathy. Family Lives suggests parents “establish a revision routine by rearranging the family’s schedules and priorities.” Giving them a break from household chores for example can free some extra time to devote to their study plan.
In addition, try to respect your child's revision timetable. Sticking to the schedule will set an example, and show your child that you value their exam season.
7. Treat them
Rewarding your child for a solid study session or completing an exam can help with motivation and provide an incentive to continue. Treats can range from a healthy snack, to letting them choose a movie at the weekend. “Having a break to watch something funny on the TV, or rewarding a whole afternoon’s study with a favourite meal - show your child how to back up the ‘little and often’ schedule with regular incentives,” says the Positive Parenting Project.
A bonus tip: exam results can be important, but they are not everything. Remember to discuss with your child the purpose of education in Islam.
At the foundation ceremony of the Aga Khan Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke of the intersection of education and faith. “The Holy Qur’an sees the discovery of knowledge as a spiritual responsibility, enabling us to better understand and more ably serve God’s creation,” he said.
Such reflection can lead to a sense of perspective and a reminder of why all this is necessary.