It’s that crazy time of year again: END OF YEAR EXAMS! The stakes are high and the stress is higher. Students who are in danger of failing are in crisis and so are their parents. Teachers are bogged down and under extreme pressure to finish the year’s curriculum, ensure all their students are equipped to pass and complete a mountain of marking and admin before break-up day. The atmosphere in most schools … and homes … is tense, to say the least.
How can you, as a parent, be most effective in helping your child navigate this stressful ambit most successfully?
Here are some “Do”s and “Don’t”s, from my experience in working with parents, students and teachers, for healthy “End-of-year-exam-ing”
1. Do: give your child the best nutritional advantage
Stock up your fridge and pantry with healthy food choices. Yoghurt, nuts, fruit (especially apples and berries), biltong, hard boiled eggs and salmon or tuna make for excellent brain fuel. Here’s a great video to watch to learn about the best “brain foods” to eat before writing a test: 12 Best Brain Foods to Eat Before Taking a Test. A Vitamin B complex supplement is a great idea at this stressful time and Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids are essential for brain functioning, memory and concentration (you can usually get them as a 3-in-1 capsule). And water. Brains need water. Lots of it!
2. Don’t: have junk food at home
Help your studying student make healthy nutritional choices by simply not keeping junk food in the home. Wait for the Christmas holidays to stock up on sugary and starchy treats. Few people – especially young people – reach for an apple when there are donuts around. However, a hungry youngster will happily eat a healthy snack when those are the only things on offer … and their brains will thank you for it! (Your summer beach bod doesn’t need chips and biscuits either 😉 )
3. Do: motivate your child to succeed
Goals are important. Motivation is essential. Encourage your child to set SMART goals. Here’s a link to a great video that explains how to set SMART goals: SMART Goals. For students, the Realistic and Achievable parts of the goals are crucial. Focus on an ever-improving, gradual, upward trend, rather than hoping for a sudden leap in marks; which inevitably leads to disappointment.
4. Don’t: turn the prospect of failure into a nightmare
In my first year of teaching High School, in California, I attended a workshop by a Master Teacher. I don’t recall the specific content of the workshop, but I’ll never forget something he said: “Never deny a student their right to fail.” This was an epiphany for me. Not only did it absolve me of the responsibility of ensuring that every single student passed, it pointed out – rightfully – that I shouldn’t presume that responsibility in the first place. Who was I to take away the many learning opportunities a student would gain from the experience of failure? This was THEIR experience; THEIR life. Their academic results were THEIR achievements – not mine.
Parents, I understand how strong the impulse must be to shield your children from all of life’s tough lessons. This is humanly impossible, though. They’re going to mess up. They’re going to get hurt. They’re going to fail. Most importantly – they’re going to learn and grow from all of these mishaps. In fact, we humans tend to learn more from our failures than from our successes, if we approach life with a growth mindset. (Check out this TED talk by Dr Carol Dweck, author of Mindset)
On a scale of 1 to losing a child (heaven forbid), I reckon most parents will agree that repeating an academic year due to failure ranks pretty low on the disaster-meter. Try to keep things in perspective. No-one WANTS to fail, but failure, in its various forms, is a necessary part of life. Even your most revolting, sullen, door-slamming teenager doesn’t WANT to fail. Truly. Even the ones who appear not to care, actually want to succeed. In my experience it’s the ones who appear not to care, who actually care the most; but are feeling terrified and out of control.
Keep it real, parents. Keep things in perspective. Keep calm.
And when you’ve a spotty someone, in front of a small screen, behind a slammed door, who seems really resistant to studying, remind them of this:
… you might get an eye-roll in return, but they’ll get the message 🙂