GCSE exam stress: how can I best support my child?

The GCSE exams have started and many parents will be wondering how best to support their children through this key period. The following suggestions might help:

Don’t nag

Gentle support rather than nagging is the best approach. Try to avoid the temptation to manage your son or daughter’s GCSE revision as this can make them more anxious. Parents muscling in on revision plans and trying to organise their time, can be infuriating for them. Constant questions about how revision is going can lead to arguments, which end up being detrimental to the whole process.

Instead, offer to help your child to draw up a revision timetable, or to test them on what they have learned so far. Offer encouragement and frequent snacks and drinks. It is crucial that they feel your support.

Giving your child a sense of responsibility for and ownership of their own revision, plus the feeling that you’re behind them in this, is paramount.

Avoid unhelpful comparisons

Drawing attention to the fact that their older siblings did GCSE effortlessly, or that you were much more organised in “your day” will not help. It will probably add to the pressure that your son or daughter is already feeling.

Comparing themselves to others – especially siblings who are highly academic – might make things worse.

Side-step arguments

If your teenager is looking to provoke an argument, or their behaviour becomes more challenging than usual, try not to rise to it. This is a stressful time for the whole family and the best approach is to stay as positive as you can.

Watch out for signs of stress

If your child is struggling to eat, suffering from insomnia or reluctant to socialise, they are probably over-stressed. If you see any of these signs, speak to your child and reassure them.

Take steps to alleviate the stress such as preparing their favourite foods, encouraging them to spend time with friends and to take exercise. Even a short walk in the countryside can work wonders. Talented students can fall short of their predicted GCSE grades due to stress. It is not easy, but try to help them to maintain a healthy balance between revision and living.

Offer rewards and encouragement

A series of rewards during revision time can really help your son or daughter to keep up the momentum. A trip to the cinema to see a good film, preparing their favourite foods, inviting close friends to supper – all of these may seem like small things but they can make the world of difference to your child’s sense of well- being and confidence.

Finally, remembering that there is a life beyond the GCSE is vital, both for teenagers and for their families. This is can be very challenging for students when they are in the midst of the exam period. Try to reassure your son and daughter that the exams last only for a few weeks and that after that … they have their whole life ahead of them, bringing a series of new and exciting challenges.