This year, May is a month for general elections, multiple bank holidays, VE Day commemorations and royal babies. But, for millions of young people across the UK, it’s also the dreaded exam season.
After months of coursework, practice papers, teachers under pressure and post-it notes, 15-18 year olds up and down the country will be preparing to sit row by row for their GCSEs, A Levels and university exams.
As grandparents, you’ll no doubt be thinking of the younger members of your family as they furrow their brows over their exam papers, but how can you help?
Leon Hady, the Headteacher of one of the UK’s first Community Based Free Schools awarded an outstanding Ofsted review, and creator of internet revision video hub TuitionKit shares his advice on how you can support your grandchildren through this stressful time.
Take an interest
As much as teenagers won’t want you peering over their shoulder while they’re memorising the alkali metals, it’s good to be there for them when they need you. If they’ve just had a disappointing mock exam result back, talk to them about what they found difficult, and help them work out how to improve next time.
But know when to step back
You might feel nervous about letting them get on with it – but struggling through to learn lessons about managing their workload is great preparation for the real world of work. As harsh as that sounds (they’re still children, however much they might claim otherwise), giving them some breathing space might help them concentrate.
Suggest coping mechanisms
Stress balls, football training, or even a well-earned night off with their friends will allow the teenager in your family to let off some steam. They should remember that although exams are an important part of their education – it’s not the only thing that matters. The old phrase ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is certainly true.
Consider extra support
If you’re concerned that they are not getting enough one-to-one support from their subject teachers, consider extra revision help. There are dozens of revision resources available online, including TuitionKit, which cater for this year’s curriculums in video format. If your teenagers watch video bloggers, or ‘vloggers’, in their spare time, embracing new media for revision might be just the ticket.
Take away the unnecessary
In a busy household with other loud children, family events or a busy schedule, it’s helpful to limit those distractions as much as possible.
Explain to the other children in your family about the pressures that your teenage grandchild is going through (especially if they’re younger and will one day face the same!) and be considerate enough to restrict any potentially stressful scenarios, perhaps disruptive DIY or big parties, until after exam season has finished.
Taking them away for an afternoon for some grandma time or inviting them to revise at your house away from other siblings for a while might also help.
Share your concerns
If you’re nervous about how they’ll get on in exam season, but you don’t want to terrify them even more, talk to their parents or teachers. You’ll probably find they’re just as anxious, and you can share advice on how best to support your family during these intense few weeks.
Enviroment is important
Having a designated revision space is a great idea – and no doubt they will know what kind of work environment suits them best. Whether it’s at the kitchen table, in their bedroom or even outside in the sunshine, work with them to create an inspiring, distraction-free corner of the house to focus and feel confident in what they are doing.
Remember it’s very different to when you did exams
No amount of “in my day” will make them feel reassured. The education system changes every year, and the exams of generations gone by will be very different to today. We see this even between siblings, particularly with the introduction of new grade boundaries – so it’s very likely they know more about how the exam systems work than you do.
Look after them
Considerations aside, it’s still crucial to make sure they get the right kinds of foods, plenty of sleep, and lots of water. Fill the fridge with tempting, healthy treats, and encourage routine curfews to limit the risk of late nights and bleary eyes.
- There's more grandparenting advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.