How to help your grandchildren through exam season
Young people can feel a tremendous amount of pressure whilst studying and sitting important exams. They can become anxious about the situation which can have a knock-on effect on their overall health and mental well-being.
We’ve spoken to bloggers as well as professionals in health and education for their tips and advice on what grandparents can do to help their grandchildren through the exam season.
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Help with revision
Secondary schools and colleges will be preparing teenagers for their GCSE and A Level exams months in advance. Lessons, homework and coursework will be key factors in the planning and preparation for exams which often take place between May and June.
While teachers will be working hard to ensure pupils have all the resources at their fingertips to help prepare them for their exams, there are also many things grandparents can do to help their grandchildren with their revision.
Encourage your grandchild to be organised
Getting organised is an important study skill and one which can effectively help with revision. Being organised in all aspects of study is crucial; from neatly arranging notes and books to having a suitable place to study.
Grandparents can help by putting together a study schedule as life coach Will Aylward explains: “Grandparents can pass on some advice around the importance of being organised and having a plan in place. Having a revision timetable will bring their grandchildren some structure and peace with regards to how to prepare for exams. Grandparents could even offer to help create a revision timetable with their grandchildren and offer their best tips for staying on track.”
Help your grandchild put together a revision toolkit
A revision toolkit is something that can be easily created to help your grandchild feel organised and prepared. As well as all the essentials such as pens, pencils, highlighters and some pads of lined paper, the toolkit can also include some added extra treats like their favourite biscuits or even a positive handwritten note can help keep spirits high.
Help with revision and conduct mock tests
“I encourage students to think of themselves as professional athletes training for a competition. The training they do before they get to the event, in this case, the exams will determine their success”, says Will.
Another way grandparents can help is to test their grandchild on exam topics during the revision process. Many school textbooks and revision guides contain mock questions and answers which are perfect for study sessions at home. Teachers will often conduct mock exams in the run-up to the exam season which contain questions from past papers. These can be another handy study resource for home.
Students will discover a revision technique which works for them, encourage your grandchild to explain their thought process as this will help you understand their methodology and in turn allows you to give further advice and support.
A helpful study tip education specialist Melanie Harwood recommends is to encourage your grandchildren to use the commit to memory revision technique: “The most powerful revision tool is the pen. The mechanical process of writing a note, reading what’s written, then repeating it verbally and visualising keywords will commit the important points into their memory bank.”
Spend time together between revision
While working hard and studying as exam season approaches is essential, it is also worth reminding your grandchildren that rest and relaxation is also important to help with their mental health.
Revitalise and clear the mind
Conversation and casual strolls
Sometimes taking a step back from revision can do the mind the world of good. Grandparents could suggest going for a short walk with their grandchildren, the fresh air and space to think is a great way to help them feel instantly rejuvenated.
Nick Harrop, Campaigns Manager at the charity YoungMinds told us grandparents can play a crucial role in helping their grandchildren’s mental wellbeing: “Exams can place a huge amount of pressure on children, and can add to the stress that they may already be feeling from elsewhere in their lives.
“As a grandparent, the best thing you can do during exam season is to focus on your grandchild’s wellbeing; talk to them, help them unwind and reassure them you will love them no matter what grades they get.”
Watching a film, playing a board game and arranging lunch
Activities to provide some light-hearted relief from revision is a must for helping your grandchildren to stay on track.
Activities such as watching a film together or playing a board game are suitable for those who have mobility issues and rely on the help of stairlifts in the UK.
Zena from Zena’s Suitcase told us why she feels it is important to weave in some downtime between revision sessions: “Exam season is so stressful for kids, and grandparents want to provide as much support as possible at that time of year. It’s highly likely that the parents have the revision schedule and routine under control, but grandparents can still help their grandchildren get through the coming weeks.
“Whilst working hard and revising will help with getting those results, it’s also important for the grandchildren to find time to relax. If you can offer to take them for lunch during their revision timetable you will help them recharge and refresh. Even if they insist that they are busy swatting up on their subjects, remind them it’s important to take a break and enjoy a little treat. They will find they can go back to studying more refreshed and their time will be far more productive.”
Make time to send supportive and good luck messages
Show your grandchild you are thinking about them by writing a thoughtful good luck message.
This sentiment works well for grandparents who live far away from their grandchildren because, despite the distance, it shows you are thinking of them. A kind and positive message will also do wonders for their self-esteem and confidence.
Help make exam day run smoothly
Months of hard work and revision have been ploughed into preparing for exams and your grandchildren are probably feeling nervous. There are a few things grandparents can do to help make exam day go without a hitch.
Offer to take them stationery shopping
Feeling prepared and having the right tools to hand can help ease those flutters of nerves. Before the exams get underway offer to take your grandchildren shopping for all those stationery essentials.
Items to put on the shopping list
Your grandchildren would have been told by their teachers about the rules and regulations of what is and is not allowed to be taken into an exam.
However, as a rule, the following items are advisable:
- Several pens and pencils (but not ones which are erasable such as the Pilot Frixion)
- Pencil sharpener
- Calculator (some higher-level exams require and allow scientific calculators into the exam)
- Clear pencil cases (this is a requirement so examiners can clearly see the contents)
- Bottle of water
It is worth giving your grandchildren a final reminder that their mobile phones are not allowed into the exam.
Offering to drive them to their exam
If you live close to your grandchildren, offering to drop them off at school or college for their exam is a great way to support them. Not only will it help calm their pre-exam nerves, but it means they won’t need to rely on erratic public transport to get them to their exam on time.
During the journey, you can help take their mind off the exam by having good conversation. Jane Evans, a life coach and childhood anxiety media expert, told us about the importance of engaging in conversation: “As a grandparent, it’s so important during exam season to focus on how your grandchildren are feeling about it all. Asking general questions like, ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘what's been the best bit of your week so far?’ then fully listening to whatever they have to say will really help them. Hold back on advice as they've probably had plenty of it but they may really need someone who can slow down and just be with them and all their feelings.”
Enjoy a meal together
Food can be a way of bringing the family together; it’s not just about sustenance, it’s about sitting down and discussing how everyone’s day has gone as well as giving your grandchildren the chance to relax and unwind.
Eating with loved ones helps everyone stay connected and is a great way to talk about life in general as well as exams. Enjoying a meal together can also act as a short distraction from an otherwise stressful time.
Naomi from Skint Dad explains why she believes it is imperative to incorporate downtime before an exam: “Exam season can be stressful. Instead of hitting the books the day before an exam, look to spend some family time relaxing and having fun. Grandchildren should feel more at ease after a good break.”
Help your grandchildren to keep things in perspective
Encouraging your grandchildren to think of the whole picture is a great way for them to see the exam season in relation to everything else in their lives.
Clare from Beat Exam Stress told us that “exams are just one way of measuring progress” and that they are a small snapshot in time.
Encourage your grandchildren to look after their mental health and wellbeing
There are many websites which are dedicated to self-help and they can be a great source of advice and information. Student Minds is a mental health charity which is aimed at students in the UK.
The charity prides itself on being able to “empower students and members of the university community to look after their own mental health, support others and create change”. The website is full of resources as well as information on how students can support themselves as well as advice on how their family can provide support.
Natalie Costa set up a teaching, coaching and mindfulness service called Power Thoughts which aims to teach children about confidence, resilience and to develop a “can-do” attitude. She told us about a technique which can help with mental health and wellbeing both in and out of the exam period: “Another tool I share is ‘what is in my circle of control?’ Often my clients are feeling worried or nervous about things which they can't control such as the questions on the paper, the exam room, the time to complete the exam etc. Instead of worrying about these things, look at what you can control instead. I can control my attitude, the amount of time I prepare, when I prepare etc.
“Writing out all the things that are in their control helps children to get a clear picture of what they can do. And then ask the question, ‘what can I do right now that will help me move forward?’ and then do that one task. Worry is often dissolved once we take action and actively do something, such as studying, revising etc.”
Clare gave us some tips on how you can encourage your grandchildren to de-stress and remain calm during exam season: “Breathe, when we are stressed, it fires off chemical reactions in the body that send us straight into the primal fight-flight-freeze mode.
“That shifts the blood flow in the brain from the area that's great at learning and remembering things to the bit that only cares about survival. So, stress makes it harder to study, which makes us stressed, and so it continues. The easiest way to reset this stress response is by standing with feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath in through the nose and then breathing out with a sigh, imagining that you're breathing the stress and worry out into the ground beneath you. Do this three, or four times and you'll have shifted those stress hormones and will be able to concentrate again. It gives you back your perspective.”
The NHS also advises that reminding a child that feeling nervous is a natural reaction to exams and that the key is to put these nerves to positive use: “Encourage them to think through what they do know and the time they have already put into studying to help them feel more confident.”
Discuss a course of action if their results don’t go to plan
Opening the ominous envelope during results day is nerve-wracking enough, but the moment can seem worse if students don’t get the grades they were hoping for.
Firstly, encourage your grandchildren to speak to a teacher or lecturer as they will be able to provide help and support. They can advise pupils on different options which include putting in an appeal on a grade, booking in for a resit, or finding an alternative college, sixth form, or university to attend.
If grades are lower than anticipated to get into their chosen sixth form or university, it is worth getting in touch to see if they could still offer a place. They may even allow people to transfer to a similar course or provide information on other places.
Jane explained that “talking less and listening more” is another way grandparents can provide support after results have been revealed: “Try to avoid minimising how they feel as although as a grandparent you know this is just a small step along the way, right now they need you to empathise and be there for them. Words of wisdom at the time of exams can be tricky but chatting about the plans they have when the exams are over can be a good way to help them feel that this is not a forever situation and that they do have something to look forward to.”
Zena suggests that grandparents could also remind their grandchildren that exams are “just a very small part of a much bigger journey”. She told us: “Regardless of what results they get now; all dreams are still possible and getting a little perspective can really help relieve the pressure your grandchildren will be facing.”
Remind your grandchildren that no matter what results they achieve, there is always a plan B.
Be involved, no matter how far away you live
Don’t worry if you don’t live near your grandchildren, you can still provide help and support during the exam season.
Stay in touch via technology
It doesn’t matter whether you live on the other side of the country, or even the world, technology can be a fantastic tool to help long-distance family members stay in touch.
Many older people are learning how to use different types of technology allowing them to stay connected with their loved ones. Video calls such as Skype or Facebook video calls are just two examples of how families who live far away from each other can stay in touch.
Video calling your grandchildren during exam season can provide some much-needed comfort and reassurance because not only can you hear each other’s voices, but you can see each other’s expressions and surroundings.
Arranging a weekly video call at a mutually convenient time can be a great way to stay in touch, especially during exam season. Not only can you talk about the exams themselves, but it also gives you the chance to have a general catch up.
Send a parcel
Sending a parcel of revision aids and treats during the exam season is just one way to lift your grandchildren’s spirits as well as showing them that you are thinking of them.
You can make your own parcel full of their favourite treats as well as tasty and nutritious foods to snack on during revision sessions. There are also companies such as Student Gift Parcel which specialise in creating beautifully packaged hampers full of exciting goodies which are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Send a hand-written note
Sometimes putting pen to paper and sending a traditional letter is a great way to show your grandchildren that they are never far from your thoughts.
A thoughtful letter can be treasured for years and powerful thought-provoking words are worth reading time and time again. You grandchildren will certainly appreciate the time and thought that went into writing and posting a letter. Ask questions about how their exams are going and jot down some positive thoughts and words of encouragement.
Receiving a letter through the post can also do wonders to help lift spirits. So often the envelopes which come through the door are mostly piles of junk mail and bills, so having a handwritten letter through the post can really make someone’s day.
Words of encouragement
We also asked bloggers what extra words of encouragement grandparents could give their grandchildren during exam season.
Natalie said: “Remind children that feeling worried or nervous is completely normal and it’s ok to feel this way. Exams are temporary and they will get through them.”
Will suggests saying something like “your best is always good enough”. He went on to explain: “The relationship between a grandparent and grandchildren is special and full of unconditional love, saying this is a great reminder for the grandchild who may feel under a lot of pressure to do well. ‘I believe in you’ is perhaps the most empowering words we can say to someone. Students may be feeling doubtful so hearing this will be reassuring.”
Clare suggests sharing some reassuring words regarding the exams themselves: “If you get a bad question, then there will be thousands of others who hated that question, too. It's incredibly important to take one exam at a time and then to move on.”
Ultimately, exams are a small portion of your grandchild’s life, but this period can also be an extremely stressful time for all the family. Remind your grandchildren that exam results don’t reflect on all the other wonderful qualities they have and that their best is always good enough.
This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.