UNDERSTANDING WHAT EXAMS MEAN TO YOUR CHILD
This slogan is a popular one at exam time. “Don’t stress, do your best, forget the rest.”
Exams are a stressful time for children. What response would you, as the parent of a child facing exams have to these words. Do they present a message of comfort or perhaps they sound too relaxed. It is helpful to know what exams mean to your child, and a quote like this one can help.
There are three simple points made by the quote. Looking at each point, realistically could help parents understand exam time better.
- What are the stress factors?
- What does ‘do your best’ mean to your child?
- What should they let go of at exam time?
1. Stress Factors:
The build up to exams is probably the most difficult time for your child. Everyone is talking about exams. Teachers, school friends and you as parents. Children will show signs of the stress, but may only convey it through actions.
Look for things like anger, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, not sleeping well or having tension headaches. Some children become irritable, forgetful and mentally exhausted. They are not always able to express their fears.
Look at this check list of possible stress factors. Find time to talk to your child about them and reassure them that there is support at home and you are trying to understand.
Here are ten of the worries students have spoken about at exam time:
- Not knowing enough to answer the questions.
- Not being able to complete the paper.
- Losing connection with their friends.
- Arriving late for the exam.
- Not understanding what the question requires.
- Too much family pressure to do well.
- Not being able to live up to older siblings and their results.
- If they fail they have no opportunities after school open to them.
- Feeling alone and not able to ask for help.
- Missing a question and not finishing the paper.
One or more of these stresses may affect your child. Go through some of the concerns on this list with your child and help them to work through any emotional worries they may have. Take time to look over their work and be available for reassuring and helping with revision. This will boost their confidence and attitude towards exams.
2. What does ‘do your best’ mean to your child.
Younger children will want to please their parents. They will need help with preparation and planning for the exams. Older children, with a more mature attitude, will want to please themselves and do well in front of their peers. Parents can help with encouragement and reassurance. Finding the right balance of pressure at exam time is very important.
Pressure to do well is one of the greatest stress factors. Parents can help children to see that doing their best is an individual performance factor. Children may think that the best has to be top marks, but parents can explain everyone has their own best mark and that is fine if they have made the effort.
3. What can children let go of at exam time?
Before exam time children may feel overwhelmed by sitting and writing an exam. Tell them to leave a question they are unsure of and return to it later. Let go of the struggle if they are not able to answer and try the other questions. After the exam don’t spend too much time fretting over the mistakes made in the exam. After the exam encourage them not to go over everything and become stressed about what they may have missed.
The exam is over. Letting go of the experience will be important to avoid stress and recriminations. Children may feel they have not done well just by listening to the other children speak about the exam. Parents can help with assuring them that the exam is a test of their memory and understanding of the subject, but it doesn’t define who they are.
The end of year exams are probably the most stressful for school children. This is the time when the year gone past is going to show up in the exam results and act as the springboard to the next phase of their education.
Children of the 2020 educational year have had to face more than the normal share of stress factors. School has not been the same this year through the difficulties over and above the normal exam pressures . However, parents have been more involved in education this year. This could lead to more understanding of the meaning of writing exams.
Charles Dickens opens his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with these words:
“It was the best of times and the worst of times.”
That is how one can feel about exams. They are the worst of times for many students, but the outcomes, may lead to being the best of times. Children will appreciate parents who are understanding and helpful at this time.
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