Exam season is upon us – and I’m definitely feeling your pain and your fear of ever Surviving Exam Season. I’ve parented through GCSE’s and A Levels, and child No.3 sits his GCSE’s next year – I’m becoming a pro at this. There’s an old Zen saying which I love; ‘Everything the same; everything different’. Every teen is unique, of course, with different struggles, different goals and different needs. But I’ve found that certain things definitely make life for the whole family easier.
Because make no mistake here – when you have a teen sitting exams, the entire household is suffering exam season.
(if you’re in need of some light relief – and you probably are if you have a revising teen in your house – then you might want to read ‘Yeah. Don’t Say THAT To Your Revising Teen‘. It’ll make you laugh. And cry…)
So here’s my top ten tips for Surviving Exam Season – for getting the whole family through the next couple of months; not just in one piece, but still actually talking to each other after the final exam paper is handed in.
1 – Feed them.
This is a biggie. Definitely Number One Tip.
Make sure they eat breakfast – it’s the meal they try and skip, and it’s such an important one. If they don’t want to stop (or get up early enough…), think ahead and make sure they have something on-the-go (I love some of the ideas in this ‘breakfasts on the go’ list I saw on Buzzfeed).
Always have grazing food ready (I’m presuming teen girls are exactly the same as teen boys here) – teenage hunger moods swing really fast and become more picky than ever before. I’ve found that a supply of easily grabbed snack foods maintains a much happier house. Normally I’m not a big proponent of snacking, but when there’s a studying adolescent in the house my ideals fly out the window with the first door slam – fruit cake, savoury biscuits, cheese slices, grapes, chopped veg sticks and a pot of humous, cold slices of pizza… whatever your teen likes, lay in a supply and keep it topped up. I try and keep them as healthy as possible, but if it’s crisps, it’s crisps. They’re not going to wither from malnutrition in 3mths.
2 – Hot drinks
Whether it’s a scalding hot cup of tea or a mug of warm and comforting chocolate with marshmallows, a hot drink delivered like room service will always be appreciated. You may just get a grunt of approval, of course – they’re teens, let’s keep it real – but more often you’ll get a warm appreciative smile and a big thank you. Some days it was the only smile I got – and no, I’m not ashamed to buy them with hot drinks. Parenting teens is tough; frankly you take the love where you can get it.
3 – Fresh Bedding
Okay, maybe this one’s just mine… but changing their bedding while they’re out will often lead to a late night hug of thanks when they slide their tired bodies bedwards and find it fresh and clean.
4 – Practical Help
Make sure they have everything they need – all the texts, of course, plus make sure have really good revision books at their disposal. Websites are brilliant, their own notes are essential – but nothing beats having an expertly-laid-out course revision book in front of you that you can be guided by, and of course doodle and make notes on.
5 – Be There
They will never thank you, and will probably never even want you to speak the E word out loud. But just having you there is a reassuring presence that makes a lot of difference to your teen. No matter how much they’re getting up your nose, don’t go away for a week. Hang in there and be around. It matters.
6 – Become a Stationery Hoarder.
This is the time when you’ll get panicked shouty cries of “I don’t have a red pencil/the right protractor/any sticky notes/another refill pad/my life is over if I don’t have a purple highlighter”. Think ahead and stock up (yes, like you needed an excuse to go buy stationery, right?).
7 – Be Patient.
They’re going to be horrible. Suck it up. Don’t remove all boundaries of decent behaviour, obviously, but I found more and more I resorted to toddler management techniques and just not engaging. “You’re being incredibly rude” plus walking away became my defence mantra. I have never been so angry as I was shouting nose-to-nose with No.1 son during his revision period for his GCSE’s. Not a proud parenting moment, one I take full responsibility for (who’s the grown up in this situation?) and one I try very hard not to repeat now. (we sailed through his A Levels with barely a slammed door). They’re stressed. Cut them some slack. Bite your tongue, hug them and go make them another cup of tea instead. It helps.
8 – Don’t You Stress
They are already filled with angst at the thought of letting you down. If you relax, they will too, so step back and calm down a bit. Please do remember that exams can always be re-taken, but a child’s self-esteem (and yes, your huge man-sized teen is still a child on the inside) can take years to rebuild. Be nice to them.
9 – Take A Day Off.
Go to the beach, go see a film, go for a swim, go out to dinner. Do something fun – and do NOT talk about exams. Everyone needs a break, and if home has become a bit stressful, get out the house and have fun together as a family. You all deserve it.
10 – Get An Exam Timetable
Not only will you not then irritate them by constantly asking, but you can also discreetly check that they’re prepping for the right exam on the right day (*coughs* and haven’t entirely missed the date of the all-day Photography A Level practical…).
Collins Revision use repeated practice throughout their GCSE guides to make the information ‘stick’ in the student’s brain longer. This ‘revision that sticks’ method is a proven way of doing better in the exams. #RevisionthatSticks
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