Revising season is upon us and, as a parent you may have been wondering what you can do to help your child revise, stay motivated, and not get too stressed. Your main role in your child’s studying life is to make sure they have an ideal environment to work in, with a home life as calm as possible, and their own space and desk away from the hum-drum of everyday life.
For all children, eating is important. One easy thing to do is to make sure that you have family meals so that they can have some time away from their books and giving them the ability to talk to you about some of their worries that they might not otherwise have mentioned. You’ll also want to make sure that you have lots of snacks in the house. Try to keep them on the healthy side, for example dried or fresh fruit or nuts, so they don’t end up eating too much chocolate or cake! You might also want to think about making them regular cups of tea or their preferred drink at intervals to keep them going.
As a parent, you also want to make sure that they have everything they need to revise. Beyond a quiet workspace, you might want to give your teenager some money to invest in notebooks, pens, highlighters and post-it notes. They might also want old exam papers and revision guides which you can spend a bit of time finding out about and ordering (and paying for!) when the time comes.
Although bribery isn’t advisable, especially in forms of cold, hard cash, a small incentive might give your child something to look forward to or something to get them motivated, for example driving lessons, a guitar, or a holiday with friends.
Although many teens like to cram, encourage a healthy sleep-wake pattern with lots of sleep. Make sure they don’t watch TV or trawl through their phones or tablet at least an hour before they go to bed, and if possible help them to do something more relaxing like reading a book. If you want your teen to listen to you, remember to do the same.
As all people are different, your child’s approach to revising will be different from his or her friends. In this way, the way you approach your child’s revision will also be different depending on their nature. Most teenagers are acutely aware of how much GCSE and A-level grades matter (universities now look at GCSE grades) and will welcome support at home. But ask your child if they'd like help and what kind of help they'd like.
What if my teen can’t stop revising?
There are some children who get so worried about exams that they spend every minute in their bedrooms pouring over notes. As a parent, you may worry that the stress is getting to them and perhaps that they’ll become too emotional when it comes to exam time to perform well.
If their revising is in full swing, don’t pressurise them to stop, but mention that they could think about having some time off at a later date. This might include something small like picking up a pint of milk or walking the dog in the afternoon to get them out the house and into the fresh air, or spending the evening in the bath. You might also want to organise something for your child to do on a day off, for example going to the cinema, shopping or the theatre.
If they are getting stressed, reassure them that their efforts are more important than their results and be there to talk things over if they want to. They may also benefit from classes such as yoga or pilates, or even something more active like zumba which you could sort out for them.
On the morning of an exam, try not to wish them “good luck” but more “I hope everything goes well” acknowledging all the hard work they’ve put in.
What if I can’t get my teen to revise?
Firstly, be patient. If they are unmotivated to revise and are constantly grumpy it may be that they are just worried about everything and don’t know where to start! Help them create a revision plan and understand what topics they need to know. Once they start their revision plan, feel they are making some progress and that there’s light at the end of the tunnel this might be enough to get them going. It doesn’t need to be a marathon session; little and often is usually best.
Don’t nag them or make too many demands on them as the arguments they lead to will be counter-productive adding to the stress and distraction from revision. Don’t micro-manage their lives, but instead ask them what they need and be willing to help them. Agree a place and a time for help, for example them talking to you while you're cooking tea.
Instead encourage your child to be an independent learner and take responsibility for their learning. Ask them how they think they could start and what's troubling them, showing that you have an interest in them. It might be that they feel they don’t understand the material well enough or are scare they are going to fail. Get them to understand their learning style and if they are not happy with the revision techniques taught at school to try methods more suited to them, for example watching YouTube videos or listening to podcasts. If they really don’t understand and can’t work independently, think about hiring a tutor to help them.
When they do revise, reward it with tea and time off as above. Equally, if it’s not going well, let them stop and start again, either in the morning or the following day.
Recognise that you might also be worrying about the outcome of their exams and other things as well, which may be causing you to get stressed and irritated. Don't let your emotions take over the relationship with your son or daughter. Remind yourself that exams aren't everything, and that they will always have a second chance.
Finally, be positive about your teen’s attempts, and praise them whenever you can.