Staying away from “stress heads” and getting a good night’s sleep are some of the keys to surviving senior exams, according to one of Australia’s leading parenting experts.
Ditching social media is also recommended for thousands of senior students across Brisbane Catholic Education schools as they prepare to embark on their final school assessments in November.
Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson, a well-known academic and author, has advised parents to stay calm throughout one of the toughest periods of their child’s schooling career and avoid passing on their own emotions about wanting them to do well.
“It’s tough to stay calm when we want our children to do so well,” says Dr Coulson, an adviser to Beyond Blue and the author of the new book 21 Days to a Happier Family.
“But emotions are contagious. If you’re stressed, your children will be. So do what you must to stay calm.”
Dr Coulson has outlined four tips for parenting during exams:
- Ask about vision and goals? Where do your children want to get to? What are the pathways available to them? What are alternative/backup pathways? Work through the conversations. These conversations can build hope and reduce stress.
- Reduce pressure by recognising that universities offer multiple opportunities to get into competitive programs. Some pathways take longer than others, but anyone can get in with enough time and willingness to keep working at it.
- Don’t tell; ask. Invite your children to develop their own schedules and plans for study and preparation.
- Ask “how can I help?” to let your children know you’re supportive of their autonomy, rather than giving them constant correction and direction.
Dr Coulson, an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, said research showed removing social media, music and other forms of entertainment could improve children’s study outcomes.
“Everyone studies differently,” says Coulson.
“Some work better alone. Some prefer groups. Some prefer long study sessions. Others like short bursts with regular breaks. Allow your child to decide.
“But research also shows that distractions like social media, music, or other forms of entertainment will lead to poorer results. Removing these from the environment can really improve children’s study outcomes.”
And while exercise remains important, sleep is the key to surviving the stress of exam time.
“It could be the biggest help for kids in the lead up to exams,” Dr Coulson said.
“ Sleep, study, and staying away from stress heads.”
If parents were planning a special reward such as a restaurant meal after exams, Dr Coulson said the focus needed to be a celebration of life rather than focusing on the results.
“A treat is always nice,” he said.
“But it should be to celebrate life and all those years of school, rather than a particular outcome we might arbitrarily call ‘success’.”
Beyond Blue recommends activities like sport, dancing, walking and yoga can improve performance by increasing oxygen to the brain.
Follow the link here to Beyond Blue’s tips for exam survival: https://www.youthbeyondblue.com/do-something-about-it/surviving-year-12