Creative Strategies for surviving exam time… For parents

A few thoughts for the many thousands of students sitting the leaving cert and junior cert this summer. The Internet is crammed with advice for last minute study tips, healthy brain food etc., the tension and anxiety is almost electric.

Most of us are familiar with the state exams, if we think that far back we can remember the nervousness of the night before, the dread of realizing we didn’t do enough all year, the relief when one of the poets we learned actually came up, the fear of hoping we were going to get the points needed to go off with our friends to college, the relief that we were finally out of school. Exams bring up a range of feelings and they are filled with stress and anxiety as at the time our lives our choices literally hinge on getting the results we want. College is not for everyone, some of us couldn’t wait to leave school and get a job, some of us literally prayed to get the course we thought we wanted. Exam time is literally paved with bends and bumps on a very long road.

Shoot for the moon and your sure to fall among the stars

So how are the parents doing on this bumpy windy road?????? They are often busy holding their breath, biting their nails, and feeling every ounce of stress that is oozing out of their adolescent. Some parents are taking it in their stride they have a gentle relaxed approach to exams and know it does not define the adolescent in their house, others are hoping encouraging and willing their child to cross the finish line. Whatever your style or parenting it is inevitable that there will be some stress and tension approaching exam time …….so how do you survive it and stay calm. You already know all this stuff that I am about to say but as adults we tend to forget the simplest of methods when stress creeps in. So make it simple and take a deep breath this is not anything new!

“Acceptance is the key word in all we do, so how do I accept this tension stress anxiety that is running through my house like a train at the moment.”

1:STOP: Literally give yourself permission to stand still and stop. Then take a look around.

2:Breathe: When we stop we usually become aware of our breath and this slows our heart rate down and hence our brain slows so some of those racing thoughts get the opportunity to takea back seat. Sr Stan Kennedy ina recent interview advised that we literally have 60,000 thoughts a day……..most of those thoughts are not real or serve no real purpose. Stopping and breathing gives us

Before leaving home, check that you have everything that you will need – ID, stationery, map to the exam venue, etc.

3:Calm: As the parent you can literally mange the energy in the home. Your adolescent may come home upset, confused or disappointed after an exam you cant change their initially feeling or reaction but you can bring calm into the home, and help everyone to settle. Put on your lavender, light some candles put on some music, let in some fresh air create a calm atmosphere. You meanwhile have stopped and are aware of your breath so you are already modeling a calm approach.

4:Remember: the exams are over in 2.5 weeks. After that your child will be back, the tension will disperse until Aug, the stress will decrease, conversation will return to normal. So if your breathing and stopping you will not react to the bad moods. Don’t take things personally. You can hold your thoughts, now is not the time to be laying down the ground rules and letting your adolescent know who the boss is, it will only lead to more upset and tension. Tell yourself this will pass it is only a temporary situation.

Have a balanced breakfast and eat mindfully.  Bananas are always a good option.

5: Routine. Try and stick to the normal routine, encourage them to go to school, teachers are a great help to students who are nervous and anxious and can often provide great tips right up till the day of the exam, they have been doing this routine a long time so they know what to expect. Stick to your own routine of work and play……….its really important for everyone in the house that parent is focused and resourced.

6: Balance. Encourage your child to contact friends and keep up social activities of sport and contact with friends it keeps everyone in good form. We cannot study 24/7 take regular breaks are important and encourage a change of scenery. Often at times of stress we take away those very activities that support us. Encourage a good sleep pattern, it does not help to have phones on lockers so suggest they are left downstairs.

7: Safety. Maybe your teenager has been under a lot of pressure, maybe there are other issues going on for their mental health or in the family home. Stay alert to increased signs of stress and vulnerability and be alert to a good safety plan. Check in with G.P, mental health professional, and therapist, as safety is the key issue when supporting someone who is already vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to check in and ask for help.

You know exam results will not change or define that wonderful young person in your home. You love them for who they are. You hope they will do well, you hope that they will get what they think they want right now but you know that if they don’t it really is not the end of the world. Stay safe, stay breathing and just remember you love them as much now as the day you held them for the first time. You will be with them as long as they need you and by keeping you energized, calm and engaged you will be available in a much healthier and happier way.

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