Five ways to support teens during exams

How can you support teens during exam months? It’s as much about helping them learn and revise as it is showing them ways to enjoy downtime that don’t always involve trips to the shops or 241 cinema. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see, or

The healing pleasures of making a cuppa over a fire - just like in Lord of the Rings (though Bilbo might have been a bit quicker!).

The healing pleasures of making a cuppa over a fire – just like in Lord of the Rings (we reckoned that Bilbo might have been a bit more expert at campfire cooking).

Thinking back to my teen years I was a super-stressed teen. I specialised in not eating, answering my parents back, shouting and feeling unloved. Home was awful; school wasn’t great.

Roll on 30 years and I’m setting assignments for uni students (mostly 18 to 19 year olds) so potentially causing nightmares for a few of this age group. But as we rush into spring 2013 even the youngest teenagers are well aware that it also brings the season of controlled assessments plus old-fashioned exams. It’s a lot of stress for any teen to handle. For instance, my oldest daughter, Lola is 14 and in Year 10 but she’s got two GCSE assessments this week alone. Last week was a music exam. Sunday was a running race.

As I can’t justify not taking these exams – I’m trying to find as many ways of taking the pressure off Lola’s over-examined, stressed-out brain when she’s at home.

When Lola’s not around friends her  favourite downtime is to wrap herself in blankets and sit on the sofa, with the dog beside her, while she focuses simulatenously on the laptop and WhatsApp messages on her phone. That’s OK for a quick relax after school, but it’s not going to add to her happiness memory bank – and it’s not really giving her brain a rest either.

Here are five ideas for how to help your teens when they enter exam months.

  1. Cut teens a lot of slack – especially over tidy rooms, helping around the house and if they’re grumpy. Be nice and see how soon it takes for teens to be nice back (even if it is several years… – this is where adults have to be model adults). Be horrible or shout back and the feisty ones will answer back at once. Others will simmer resentfully taking their stress levels up to crazy heights.
  2. Give teens some responsible roles How about babysitting, a request to do your hair or nails, a mission that involves navigating across town/out of town
  3. Surprise your teen by taking them for an inexpensive treat, eg, a caramel coffee, luxe cupcake or interesting type takeaway (Indian/Chinese/street food) that you eat together.
  4. Listen to your teens more. They need as much love as the toddlers, it’s just in a different way – often far more challenging for parents.
  5. When revision gets too much set up a cooking challenge that involves your teen (and maybe you too) being outside. Going for a walk isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, so try the outdoor cuppa challenge for anyone who loves the book or film of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. I handed Lola some sticks and our Storm Kettle one spring March Sunday and suggested she tried using it to make us tea. It’s not easy unless you’ve had a lot of practice – make sure you have several boxes of matches, especially if there’s a breeze. When you know there’s a kettle inside it takes the pressure off, but by 4.15pm the water was hot and we were able to enjoy two mugs of Earl Grey and biscuits, watched by a pair of courting long tail tits.

Over to you
Let me know what works in your household – especially families who’ve done this all before.

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