It’s not easy to navigate life as a parent of teenagers at the best of times but when faced with studying and exams, it's even harder. While stress can help us, too much really doesn’t bring out the best in anyone.
In the summer months, we all like to conveniently forget how hard the exam season was. Next year’s hurdles seem a long way off and it’s easier not to think about them. But the summer months are the ideal time to reflect on what happened this year and prepare for what comes next. A time when you can actually take a breather and look at the bigger picture.
These three simple steps will inspire your child to get ahead this summer and help you both prepare for the year ahead.
1. Invest in strengthening the relationship with your child.
The exam period itself is stressful for both parent and student, so once it’s over, it’s important to nurture and if necessary repair the relationship. If your child always sees you stressed, even after the exams, this will be detrimental to both of you. Do whatever you can to recharge your own batteries so that you’ve got something left to give. Spend as much one-to-one time with you child as you can, at a time when you are both more relaxed. Do things together you both enjoy. You’ll be stocking up your relationship bank. This will pay off both in terms of the extent to which you can be the one who inspires them and also very helpful next year when you're once again facing the exam season.
2. Help your child find their own intrinsic motivation.
Challenges are far easier to deal with when we embrace them rather than fight against them. Studying is demanding, exams are a big challenge, especially when the results determine the opportunities open to you. To help students embrace the challenges, they need to find their own intrinsic motivation. This could be anything from wanting to go to university, to wanting to pursue a particular career, live a certain lifestyle, have their independence, be like a person they admire or wanting to make you proud.
If they’re low on intrinsic motivation, it’s going to be an uphill struggle all the way. You’ll spend the year nagging them to study, they’ll spend the time ignoring you. So, if your child is low on intrinsic motivation, use the summer to explore ways to inspire them. They may find inspiration from Love Island or Fortnite, but it’s far more likely to come from further afield.
What are they showing an interest in? What untapped areas could you help them develop? Help them to expand their horizons and discover new things. Get them to visit new places, university towns, interesting places, galleries, museums, exciting concerts, thought-provoking plays, sporting events, talks and events. Introduce them to new people and different cultures, travel to new places and take them in to different work places. Get them to try new activities and interests. You’re simply trying to ignite a spark, encourage them to find something that excites them, give them their own reasons to want to achieve. The more engaged your child is with life and excited about what the world has to offer, the more they will find the drive and ambition they need to succeed.
3. Strategically plan for the year ahead
We're so relieved the stresses of exams are over, we try to forget about it for another year. This is short-sighted; you can pre-empt some of the stresses and worries of the year ahead by taking a more strategic approach. Be more proactive in planning and preparing for what’s to come, rather than always being in trouble-shooting mode. Just as you plan ahead at work, use these skills to strategically plan ahead with your child.
Much of the exam stress is a result of students neglecting to prepare well enough. They start studying too late, leaving it until the exam date is within sight, whereas they should be preparing before the first term even begins.
Help them to strategically plan ahead for the coming academic year. For example, help them to set goals, devise a time management plan, set up systems for filing work and prepare where they’re going to study. Help them plan how they’re going to look after their well-being, for example enjoy good friendships, join a gym, eat well, sleep more, and help them establish good habits. The more your child plans for the year ahead, the less stressful it will be when it comes to the exam season next time round.