How to survive exam fever -- a guide for worried parents
Good support from home can play a key part in a student's success
Published 02/06/2010 | 05:00
It is only a week until the start of Junior and Leaving Cert exams -- and the atmosphere in tens of thousands of Irish homes is becoming a little tense.
The stresses for pupils sitting public exams are well documented, but spare a thought for the parents who have to cope with the tantrums, sleepless nights and sudden bouts of despair suffered by their offspring.
Ultimately when the results come in, success or failure will be down to the pupil and to the quality of teaching. But good parenting is also an essential part of the exam equation, according to Brendan Guildea, a maths teacher who holds popular Junior and Leaving Cert revision workshops.
He says: "In some cases, what is happening at home can make a difference of 10pc. That could prove crucial in the exams."
So how can parents support their children as nerves become frayed?
It may seem obvious, but parents can help by being around and available during exam time.
"The first piece of advice I would give to any parent is to be physically there at home to show your support,'' says guidance counsellor Andree Harpur, who offers tips at her blog andreeharpur.blogspot.com.
"A teenager will probably never say how wonderful it is that you are there, and might not even wish to say anything about the exams, but the fact that you are there will help.''
2. BE PATIENT AND TOLERANT
During a time of stress, it is inevitable that at some point the student might blow a fuse.
Rose Tully, of the National Parents' council, says: "It is a time for great mood swings.
"If they bite your head off, it may be a good idea to ignore it and just stay calm.''
It is a time to be forbearing and tolerant.
3. ENCOURAGE GOOD TIMING
Brendan Guildea says the student should be encour- aged by their parents to pace themselves through the exams.
He or she might get very worked up about the early exams, and decide to stay up all night revising and cramming.
"The problem is that the student becomes jaded and by the second or third week they have lost interest.''
4. KEEP SECRET SUPPLIES
Pupils can become flustered by minor details and caught out by practicalities, such as a calculator not working.
"Pupils often rely on their fellow pupils for things such as pens, rulers and other equipment in school. But in an exam that is often not possible,'' says Brendan Guildea.
"Quietly you can buy equipment, so that if they say they haven't got something you can quickly come up with it.''
5. GET A TIMETABLE
Parents should secretly get a copy of the exam timetable.
"It is a good idea to ask the student what exam he has on the following day, and then check it yourself against the timetable,'' says Brendan Guildea.
"When you are doing seven exams and you are under stress it is easy to get times mixed up.
Boys, in particular, can get the exam time wrong, and if they do, it's game, set and match.''
6. AVOID POST-MORTEMS
Try to avoid getting involved in analysis of exam papers. The chances are that you won't understand them, and the exam is over anyway.
Andree Harpur says: "It may be a good idea to suggest that they ring a teacher the following day for reassurance.
"In the meantime, they can get on with revising for another subject.''
7. ENCOURAGE REST AND RECREATION
It is important to take regular breaks while revising. Parents should encourage students to take a break every few hours.
A short brisk walk will help students relax and concentrate better. Emphasise the importance of regular sleep.
Research shows that pupils who got lower grades went to sleep on average 40 minutes later than top exam performers.
8. ACT AS CHAUFFEUR
This is not the time to re-discover your faith in the virtues of public transport. A lift to the exam will avoid distractions.
9. LOOK AFTER HEALTH
Students who have health problems should be helped to take the necessary precautions.
Hay fever sufferers should be alert to conditions that cause the symptoms to flare.
Asthmatics should have an inhaler at the ready.
Students should be discouraged from lying out in the sun, as sun stroke can be debilitating.
10. KEEP YOUR HEAD
"It is vital for parents to stay calm,'' says Andree Harpur.
"If you remain calm throughout the exam period, this communicates itself to your children and they will stay calm themselves.''