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HEALTH EXAM STRESS

If you find that you’re getting too anxious at the thought of your child’s exams, take a step back. The last thing your child needs is your stress as well as their own

How to help your children pass exams with minimal pressure

BE POSITIVE

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Concentrate on anything you can do to spark your child’s interest or make learning a bit more fun – but leave the nagging to the school.

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Taking your child to a museum (with an ice-cream break) is helpful; badgering your child to do revision or pointing out mistakes is not.

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Try reading to your child, listening to story tapes or going to see a Shakespeare play on their GCSE syllabus.

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Go out of your way to hug and compliment your child on the things they do well. If he or she is feeling anxious, it’s a big help to know that your love is not connected to academic success.

took a knock when she moved to big school. She’d imagined herself centre stage as always, with teachers telling her how wonderful she was. When she was only offered third tree on the left in the school play, she sobbed all weekend.” None of us wants our child to

lose confidence but life won’t always go their way. Learning to deal with failure can be a challenge at any age. If your child is going through this for the first time, you might feel angry with the school, the exam system, or even higher achieving children. But at least your child has your support and this is more valuable than any exam result. As well as offering comfort,

sometimes it can be a good idea to manage your child’s expectations in advance. It might seem a paradox but combining our advice on helping your child prepare for exams – while at the same time letting them know that there are more important things in life – means you are offering your child the best possible preparation for success, no matter what their age. %

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PLAN AHEAD

If you decide to actively help your child revise then start as early as you can. A gentle drip- drip of information and revision over a few months is better than last-minute cramming.

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Find out from the school where your child’s weak spots are and then do what you can to help. Does your child need more maths or spelling practice? Could you organise a French exchange a year before GCSE exams?

If you suspect your child is dyslexic, investigate and get all assessments done early. This way, your child will have the extra time needed and perhaps even a laptop for an exam.

LOOK AFTER YOUR CHILD PHYSICALLY

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Tire your children out with physical exercise – make time to walk to school, go to the park, play football in the garden or take them swimming or cycling at weekends. Exercise can generate all sorts of endorphins which can reduce anxiety, make their brains

More importantly, it’s worth remembering that these exams aren’t life and death. If your child doesn’t get into the school or university you, or they, hoped for, it’s not the end of the world. If you can keep this in perspective, you’ll be far better able to help your child do the same.

Karen Doherty and Georgia Coleridge are the authors of

Sibling Rivalry – Seven Simple

Solutions (Bantam Press) available through Amazon and at all good bookshops.

work better and improve their energy levels.

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Get a good bedtime routine going, because when children are working hard they need their sleep (yes, we know: fat chance if your children are already teenagers and go to bed later than you do).

ADJUST YOUR OWN ATTITUDE

If you find that you’re getting overly anxious by the thought of your child’s exams, take a step back. The last thing your child needs is your stress as well as their own. You might find it also helps to stay away from some of the other parents at the school gate. Even if the school is doing a good job at keeping children grounded, it can be hard not to get sucked in by parent paranoia.

SUMMER 2010 FIRST ELEVEN 61

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