Exam Season – Top Ten Tips for Survival

Parenting children through the exam season can be challenging for the whole family.Here are some tips to support your child’s success and your sanity!

Whether this is the first year of exams for your household or you have been here before,developing some solid revision techniques and family involvement can support you all through this tense time.

BREATHING – deep, abdominal breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing may help relax the brain and body and also help to boost stamina and energy by keeping the senses alert. Here’s how to do abdominal breathing:

  • Sit in a chair,stand up or lie on the floor and place your hand on your lower stomach.
  • Focus on clearing your mind then take a breath in through your nose slowly and feel your stomach rise/expand – your hand should be pushing away form your body.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth; the exhalation should take twice as long as the inhalation(this takes practice)
  • Repeat 3 times
  • Over time increase the length of the breath – relax and enjoy.

SPACE – create a work space that will support your child’s study requirements. A large table or desk with light and ideally in a quiet part of the house where they can focus and feel relaxed. Keep distractions to a minimum such as mobile phones and TV.If space is limited the local library can be another great place to use.

PLAN – work through a revision timetable with your child in advance, this must involve their in-put as it will give them ownership of their study time. Remember to programme in booked activities,plenty of breaks and some fun time too. Place the timetable in a prominent position, although you may still need to give gentle reminders.Keep in mind it is only for 3 or 4 weeks, then you can all relax!

LISTEN – as parents listening is a vital skill that we all use and perhaps should do more often. Let your child explain how he/she is feeling,be understanding and caring. This is a time when the household is charged with excess stress from everyone and it is our job to try and maintain an air of calmness,remember that breathing exercise!

MOVEMENT – learning and movement go hand in hand. Your child may study better while walking around the room,sitting on a swiss/gym ball or standing on a rocking balance board. If your child prefers to sit, encourage them to get up every 25mins to take a 5 min movement break, this will help stimulate blood flow around the body and brain and help to re-focus. Movement breaks can include stretching,skipping,ball bouncing,walking or running up/down stairs – in fact any type of physical activity – get involved.

FRESH AIR – during study time, it is vitally important to get outside and breathe in fresh air everyday. This can be done at lunch-time/meal times and will clear your head and provide excercise. There is nothing better than a good walk to “blow the cobwebs away”. Exercise of any kind and movement breaks are highly recommended.

MUSIC – some students can study effectively with music playing,while others are distracted by any outside stimulus. Listening to music stimulates different parts of the brain but the type of music can make all the difference. Research shows that realxation and classical styles of music without lyrics can be helpful but on the whole test scores do not increase by those studying with music. If your child works better with music then introduce them to classical!

FOOD – is essential for successful studying. Starting the day with a good break-fast is exactly what the brain and body require to fuel up. I always recommend a protein and “good” fat breakfast such as eggs,mushroom,greens,bacon,cheese,homemade pizza…Try to avoid sugar based cereals which provide a “high” for 20mins, followed by a mid-morning slump. Eating regular meals and drinking plenty of water will keep studying on track.

Other good foods to include are:

  • Salmon and oily fish which are high in Omega 3 – this fatty acid feeds the brain and research shows this increase brain function
  • Dark fruits and vegetables – blueberries,blackberries,spinach and kale are excellent sources of antioxidants which help promote healthy brain function
  • Dark Chocolate – 70% or higher is antioxidant rich and may improve focus and concentration, you will eat less compared with the high sugar varieties of milk and whote chocolate.

SLEEP – enough!!

At least 7 hours or more if you can at night, the more hours of sleep before midnight the better. A good night’s sleep means more focused and emotionally stable children. Lack of sleep affects our mood,mental health,reaction time,memory,slows thought processes and makes learning difficult.

LOVE – let your child know that no matter the outcome of exams,they will always have your love and support. Practice kindness always.


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