Advice for parents to support their children during Leaving Cert exam year

In the final part of a week- long series, teacher and wellbeing author, ALAN WHITE, shares advice for parents whose children are doing exams, and what they can do to provide support
Advice for parents to support their children during Leaving Cert exam year

Students who have the support of their parents are more likely to succeed, says Alan White. Picture: Stock

THE Leaving Cert can be a stressful time for parents as well as students. As parents, we want the best for our children, to achieve and reach their full potential. However, there are many challenges along the way and often the stress that comes with these exams can be difficult for parents to navigate.

Often, we can put our own stresses on young people. our desire to see them do well can create an overwhelming sense of urgency which causes us to put even more pressure on students to work hard and study long hours. This can have a counterproductive effect and often students lose motivation when they feel too much pressure from the adults in their lives.

Parents can also use their own experiences in education to pass on unconscious biases around school or certain subjects. For example, when a student is struggling with a subject parents can often try to empathise by saying that they too didn’t like or were not good at that subject. This can instil a belief in the young person that they too will not be able to overcome the challenges they have in this area, and they often stop trying.

It can be extremely challenging for parents to get the balance right between support and pressure but there are a number of simple things that we can do to support students over the coming months.

Creating Healthy Routines

Healthy routines create psychological safety for young people. when they can be sure that each day will mostly be predictable and where they know what they will be doing at certain times throughout the day, they will feel safe and more in control of their lives and more capable to overcoming challenges.

Developing routines are when, students know when they need to get up in the morning, what time they will need to leave for school, when they have time for revision and homework and when they have free time.

Parents can support students in this by helping them with their organisation each day, facilitate what hey need, such as a quiet place to work, limiting screen time and ensuring routines are being kept as much as possible.

Encouragement

Encouragement is showing faith in a young person’s ability to do things for themselves, whereas parental pressure is often felt when students think that parents are forcing them to do things.

It can be hard for parents to step back and allow young people the space to figure things our for themselves while encouraging them to do what they need to do.

Sometimes certain rules might need to be put in place and these are often necessary. However, it is genuine encouragement and praise that will motivate and instil a sense of self belief in young people and ultimately promote the best outcomes for them.

Acknowledging Effort

When we are focused on outcomes such as the results of exams, we can often overlook the effort being made along the way. We tend to focus on the Pre-Exams, the CAO, Leaving Cert results and the number of points students achieve. However, along the way any successful student will have made considerable effort.

Whether your child is struggling with motivation or is working as hard as they can, genuine praise of any effort will enhance their sense of self-belief and increase the likelihood that they will continue to put in effort. Results are important but the Leaving Cert can also be an opportunity for young people to learn how resilient, hard working and motivated they can be which are skills that will help them throughout their future lives.

Using “I” Statements

Conflict between parents and children often begin when the child feels judged, blamed, or accused.

Very often when we interact with young people we use “you” statements for example, “you are not working hard enough”, “you are not spending enough time revising”, etc. This can often sound accusatory to young people and create resistance and conflict.

By changing how we phrase the message we want to convey we can reduce the chances of conflict and open up the possibility of the discussion being more effective. For example, using statements like, “I’m worried that you will not do as well as you can if you don’t put in more effort” or “I know you are capable and could do even better with more effort”. By using these statements young people are less likely to hear criticism and be open to what you are trying to say to them.

The ups and downs over the coming months will sometimes feel challenging, there will be moments of success and setback, challenges and conflict, however all the evidence shows that students who have the support of their parents are more likely to succeed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan White is a second level teacher, 6th Year Head and wellbeing author at Bishopstown Community School. He also facilitates wellbeing workshops for companies and organisations. For more information visit www.changeswellbeing.ie linkedin Alan White or facebook Changes Wellbeing

You can catch up on the week-long series below on the link.

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