How to survive the exam season as a parent (or grandparent)

It is one of life's searing injustices that, just as the weather heats up, so does the exam season.

Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 8:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 9:07 am
Students will be feeling the pressure this month as exam season kicks into gear.

Ahead of the first exams next week, thousands of teenagers are stuck indoors, steeped in study guides and set books, caught in that dark territory between boredom and terror.

Their parents (and grandparents), meanwhile, are… doing what, exactly? Panicking, in some cases, which helps no one.

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Students will be feeling the pressure this month as exam season kicks into gear.

The headmistress of a leading girls’ school even produced a guide this week to calm the nerves of, yes, parents during the exam period.

Heather Hanbury, of Lady Eleanor Holles School in London, suggests a “relaxation timetable” for you, alongside your children’s revision timetable.

Keep it in proportion

Exams are important, but they’re not everything.

There are many other factors to a fulfilling life. Today’s children are increasingly defined by their academic success.

No wonder stress is running rampant among British youth. High-achieving parents, in particular, are apt to suffer badly from second-hand academic stress, so much do they crave a brace of A*s for their offspring – which they may never need.

Remember, exams are a means to an end, not a badge of honour for children – or their parents. And they can always be retaken.

Let go of control

Accept that nothing much you can do will make a whole lot of difference at this stage – which is quite liberating, if you think about it.

Yours is a supporting role here. If there’s a control freak within you, quash it.

“However well intentioned, you can’t get things right for them,” reminds counselling service Relate (which advises on family relationships as well as couples’ ones).

A bit of que sera will help you feel calmer, and if you’re calmer, you’ll be a lot more use.

Ease up on the pressure

According to the helpline Childline, many of the children who contact them during the exam period say they feel under pressure from their families.

Your son or daughter will know by now that this is crunch time. Their teachers are already leaning on them heavily.

They will have got the message, so there’s no need to keep reminding them how much the next few weeks will affect their future.

Promises of money or gifts for good grades achieve little and send the wrong message.

They can even add to the pressure, according to Relate. Instead, deliver the rewards now. Treat your child like royalty.

Feed them their favourite foods and snacks – healthy eating can go hang, as can clearing up after themselves.

Agree with them a big treat or gift for when the exams are finished (not for when the results come in).

Be the voice of calm

Their exams are not your exams. For this, be thankful. (Also, their achievements are not your achievements; make a vow now to keep the results to yourself and off social media – and instantly ease pressure on everyone.)

Be reassuring and positive – the more sincere these feelings are, the better, but if you’re not feeling calm, you have a duty to fake it.

Don’t ask too many questions, just be a sounding board. And let them do what they want in their downtime – they’ve earned it.