As GCSE, A level and general end-of-year exam season is nearly upon us, Claire Musters shares some practical ways to be there for the young people in your household who are sitting exams this term
I know I won’t be the only mum bracing herself for what is to come over the next few months. While the weather is starting to get warmer and sunnier, many of our young people are preparing themselves for exam season. How can we support our loved ones well as they embark on this intense season? Here are five things I will be trying – I hope you find them useful too.
1. Pray: for them, with them (if they will let you) and in their rooms
I know that I can have a tendency to rush in with advice and my own ideas, so am reminding myself here that prayer is one of our greatest tools as parents.We can lift them up in prayer every day – asking God to help them with their organisation, to give them a right perspective, a sense of peace and good rest when they go to bed each night. I also pray in my kids’ rooms – they spend so much time in them revising, I pray for an increase of God’s presence and against any scheme of the enemy to distract or cause difficulties.
2. Provide helpful aid – like light-hearted breaks and snacks!
While we might want to micro manage our kids’ revision, particularly if they don’t appear to be taking it too seriously, it’s best not to get too hands on (unless asked for advice). We can provide encouragement, and suggestion, but back off before getting too bossy!
Hopefully, our sons and daughters will have been guided well by their schools, and, during times of intense revision, what they might actually need is gentle reminders to take breaks. And when they are having a break, it can really help them (and you!) to do something together. We find that having a quick game of cards gives us a sense of connection, and can generate much-needed laughter. Getting outside for fresh air and a bit of exercise is really helpful too. Oh and ensuring they eat regular, healthy meals is vital – as is ensuring your home is stocked up with snacks!
3. Keep the atmosphere in the home light
It can get quite intense during exam season, but do try and remember that, while important, it isn’t the only thing going on in your household. Keep checking in with everyone else about their days too, and keep providing a bigger perspective on life rather than focusing everything on exams. There will have been enough intensity at school in the run-up to study leave; what they need in the home is a place of peace (wherever possible).
4. Look out for signs of excess stress
Of course there will be stress during exam time, but you know your child and how they respond. If anything appears out of the ordinary, such as tearfulness, low mood, extra irritability, headaches, queasiness etc then gently offer them a safe, non-judgemental space to talk. It is important that you watch your own stress levels too.
We can get anxious on our children’s behalf, but they don’t need any extra pressure or stress projected onto them from us. Take your own concerns to God regularly and ask the Holy Spirit for strength and peace.
5. Be as available as you can be
Every young person is different – it may be that yours is totally on top of their revision and just wants to relax (perhaps with you) the night before an exam. Or they might be cramming or simply want someone to have a final run through with (ie to test them on quotes or other elements).
At this point what they don’t need is a lecture if they are the ‘leave-it-till-the-last-minute’ type. But if you can calmly be there for them, and offer whatever they need, they will certainly appreciate it (even if not until years to come!). It may be that they need a pep talk just before they head to bed (or want you to doublecheck with them that they have everything ready for the next day) – while it may interrupt your own plans (or bedtime) do try to make yourself available if you can.
And on an exam day…
Take time to remind them of how much you love them and value them. If they will let you, pray with them before sending them on their way (or pray for them as soon as they’ve left if they find prayer together uncomfortable). It is a prolonged season of stress, but one in which we support them best by bringing them before God and trusting that he is with them every step of the way – and whatever the outcome.