FIRSTLY, the very best of luck to all students who are sitting their Leaving & Junior Certificate exams this year.
This is such a big event in every student’s life, but one we need to keep in perspective. Yes, many students will be hoping to get the points they need to follow their course/job of choice but let us all try to remember ‘there is always a way’.
It is important to let students realise there are so many options available to them in today’s world, have that conversation with them - look at the options and talk about them so they are well aware that regardless of how exams go, they will have choices.
There is so much emphasis put on this exam and said results, the pressure on some students can hit an all time high, this can be a very scary place for them to find themselves.
Let us look at ways we can support our kids during this stressful time.
As I have said there are many options/choices available to students today. There are back doors into all courses, there are wonderful trades/apprenticeships available, there are overseas courses available, my advice is have this looked into in advance so your child knows that whatever happens over the coming weeks - they will always have options.
Stress Levels - Breathing Technique
Some kids will handle stress better than others but I am well aware that some kids can really struggle here.
There is a breathing technique a lot of students I work with find helpful (and a lot of parents find it helpful too);
1. Breathe in through your nose for the count of six.
2. Hold breath for the count of six.
3. Blow out breath through mouth until all breath is gone. Repeat 3/4 times
This exercise will slow the heart rate, helping to calm the body.
Some students thrive on meditation, 5 minutes daily helping them to stay grounded.
Anyone can look up ‘You Tube’ 5 minute meditation to relieve stress, 5 minute relaxing meditation - it costs nothing but can be so valuable.
Now is not the time to stop your child listen to music, play sport, cook, row, dance etc - they need a little escapism now more than ever. They cannot study all of the time.
They will all benefit from switching off, make sure your child is taking sufficient breaks.
It is very important to try to keep the home as calm as possible during these coming weeks. I fully understand this is not always easy, especially if you have younger kids around but it is very important. I suggest planning playdates for the younger ones as often as possible, maybe extended family/friends could help out here.
Try to keep noise levels down while they are trying to study.
I found cooking their favourite meals, leaving treats where they study, leaving them little thoughtful notes, very helpful. I wanted to show them I understood, I wanted them to know I understood and I was there for them. Sometimes words are not needed.
Your exam student may be even more reactive than usual, this is to be expected but you don’t have to be. You are not sitting the exams, they are. When they let off, shout, loose their temper - try, try, try not to react to their behaviour. Their behaviour is not about you, it is about their feelings, it is about them.
Take a deep breath, walk out of the room, go for a walk, a drive - do whatever you need to do but try not to add fuel to the fire, its just not worth it.
I know this is not easy but I can promise you it makes a real difference. It is only a couple of weeks - there is light at the end of the tunnel.
When your child comes in from an exam, they really don’t need an inquisition. Let them deal with whatever happened in their own time, they will come to you if they want to talk about it. What is done is done, there is no point rehashing it.
What they may need is a little space, time to reflect, to relax and to get ready to prepare for the next exam.
They may need a simple hug, a nice dinner and a little tic (tender loving care!). These days can be exhausting, it really helps if they know you get it and you are there for them - when they need you!
Look after yourself
You cannot be there for your child if you are stressed out yourself. What can you do to keep yourself calm over the coming weeks? Only you know what works for you - walk, meet friends, meditate, exercise, sleep - whatever it is, do as much of it as possible. This is a really important time for them, they need you to be there for them, sometimes just your presence is enough, sometimes they may need a chat, hug. Prioritise yourself when they are gone to sit exams, when they are studying - use any spare time to look after you.
Sometimes taking an extra 5/10 minutes in the car listening to music, chatting to a friend, listening to a podcast can really help.
Just remember you cannot be there for your child if you are not there for yourself first.
About the author:
Eileen Keane Haly, is the Director of jumpstartyourconfidence.com and author of The Parent. Eileen is a qualified Parent Coach, Kids Confidence Coach and Teenage Mentor, with a background in child psychology.