As Christmas cheer begins to appear on our screens and in our shops, the holidays can still seem a long way off for children applying to independent schools around the country. We’re now in the midst of the entrance exam season, with students sitting the computerised ISEB tests throughout November.
So in what we know is an incredibly stressful time for families, we’re focusing this month on how to successfully tackle exam stress – and how we can help prepare children for the testing time to come.
While the entrance requirements will vary by age, county and school, one thing remains the same: it’s a long process, stretching over several months and encompassing a range of written tests and face-to-face interviews. It’s probably the first time your child will have been placed under such pressure, and coping with this stress effectively is critical for success. So what can you do to help?
Spot the signs – from restlessness and lack of attention to insomnia and loss of appetite, it’s important to recognise when your child is feeling the strain. There are lots of resources online that can help you nip stress in the bud, before it escalates.
Step in when you need to – while the adrenalin released in a stressful situation can be helpful in small doses, too much can be detrimental to both physical and mental wellbeing. So set study limits for your child, and make sure they take regular breaks. Time spent outdoors can be a great way to de-stress.
Be strict about bedtime – with disrupted sleep both a symptom and a cause of stress, don’t let your child get caught in this destructive loop. Keep studying to a minimum before bed, stick to a sensible bedtime and try (tricky as this is!) to limit their screen time in the evenings.
Teach your child ways to relax – no matter the outcome, just taking these challenging tests can be an invaluable life lesson. And while there are things you can – and should – do as a parent, it’s important to give your child the skills to deal with stressful situations themselves.
Suggest that they share their feelings in a diary or with a friend, or take part in an activity outside that they enjoy. Breathing techniques and mindfulness are really helpful ways to combat stress, as your child can draw on them at any time – even in the exam room.
At Figtree, we work with children preparing for the 11-plus and 13-plus, and have a specialist team on hand to support at every stage. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out how we can help.