Whether it is a moody teenager preparing for college, or a stressed wife revising for a mature degree, at some point you will have to support someone through exam season. The following tips may prove useful:
1) Be prepared for a rocky few weeks. If you husband yells at you to keep the children quiet, or if your teenage daughter keeps bursting into tears, don’t take it personally. Think back to your own experiences. Do you remember moments of anger, panic and frustration? When the storm clouds gather, don’t engage in the argument. Get out of their way and allow them to cool off.
2) Hide you own anxiety. This can be especially difficult for parents. But you mustn’t be selfish. Remember, your child should never be pressured, or made to feel a failure, just so you can boast that she got into Oxford or Yale. And the same is true in relationships. You may long to have more money, to move into a bigger house, and to book expensive vacations, but bullying and nagging your husband to pass a promotion test is selfish. Never jeopardize a relationship. The love you share with your child or partner is more important than anything.
3) Individuals cope in their own way. Your friend’s child may revise late into the night while yours watches TV or sleeps, but that doesn’t mean he will perform any better on the day. Trust them to find their own revision method. Some prefer to revise little and often, others like to work late at night or early in the morning; some begin their revision right away, others need to feel the pressure before they can get motivated.
4) Think practically. Don’t book a carpenter or builder for the week before an exam. The last thing your son or wife needs is the sound of drills and hammers. And don’t invite friends or relatives to stay until it is all over.
5) Do all you can to avoid exposing them to emotional upset. If you have fallen out with your sister or look set to lose your job, try and keep it quiet until the exams are done. Of course, you will have to exercise a little judgement here. For example, if your son’s much-loved grandfather has weeks to live and wants to say goodbye, you have no right to deprive your son of this opportunity. If you choose not to tell him, be sure your motives are pure. Is it because you are concerned for his future? Or is it because you want to boast to your friends that he got into an ivy-league college?
6) Think of yourself as a sport’s coach preparing someone for the big game. Encourage and help them to sleep well, to eat healthily, and to take lots of exercise. The mind does not function independent of the body. If someone neglects their health, becoming so preoccupied with revision that they sleep odd hours, rarely leave the house and subsist on fizzy drinks and junk food, their memory and concentration will suffer.
Never forget, no matter how stressful things become, one day it will be over. If you find the whole experience exhausting, give yourself something to look forward to. Plan a vacation or spa day for the week after the exams. And don’t expect any thanks (especially from a teenager!). Try not to take this personally. After all, your child or partner or friend was so preoccupied with the things they had to learn they barely noticed your existence. Just enjoy a well-earned rest. You will need it to cope with results day!