“I feel so helpless!” is a sentence I hear many parents say at this time of the academic year, every year! However, you can and do have an important role in supporting your teenager during the stressful exam period. Read on to help gain some clarity around how you can best support your teenager in the coming months.
They are changing A LOT!
First things first, irrespective of the academic pressure that our teenagers are under, we must acknowledge that the teenage brain is a radically changing one. The cortical region of the brain finally finishes forming at 25 years of age. And during the teen years, the brain goes through a pruning phase and a growth phase and both of these lead to significant changes in how teenagers think, make decisions, set goals (or don’t as the case is) and take more risks!
These changes mean that they seek more independence from their parents and this is to be viewed as inevitable & healthy. As a parent, you can still be there for them and a key source of security. So, what’s the bottom line? When your teenager responds to you in a non-adult way, accept it, because they are not adults and are not yet cognitively ready to think or feel like one! This is not to excuse them from inappropriate behaviour, but it is to view them with more compassion and acceptance and see them as the young person they are, growing and learning about who they are.
Study Expectations – Ideal versus Realistic?
When it comes to the study habits of the teenagers, the key thing is to consider what does “good study look like?” and then consider whether this is the parents’ view, the teenager’s view or some unrealistic ideal that doesn’t really exist? Make sure that your own expectations are not clouding what is suitable for your teenager and the tests that they are undertaking. If you’re unclear on what good study looks like in 2021, maybe ask the school?
Perception of the situation is the key
One of the key ways to support your teen is to role model healthy behaviours and habits. Again this is where compassion and acceptance are key. While doing these replacement tests is stressful and challenging, they will be ok and so will your relationship with them. Chat to them about how “stress” is a word for a natural and normal body state that we feel when we are facing uncertainty and that it is ok to feel nervous at times. This feeling can help us to perform our best in a difficult situation so thinking more calmly about this feeling and the test will create a much more optimistic and effective mindset.
Look after your teen through lifestyle daily habits
Help them to remember to care for themselves in the simple ways, this is so valuable for you to do as their caring parent. Help them stay emotionally and physically well over the coming weeks by embedding all the F’s into the weeks;
Fresh Air Most vital way of staying well (Natural Light)
Forest - get into nature - Trees release chemicals that reduce anxiety levels!!
Food – feed them well, maybe take a supplement – magnesium, potassium
Fluid - hydration is vital for our brains. But also keep caffeine low or none at all to help with sleep and feelings of anxiety
Fitness - simple physical activity energises the brain - use energy positively
Fun enjoyment is very important – anything!! Play to be well!!
Amongst the stress and the worries, ask yourself, what do you want your teen to remember from this period? And make that your goal as their parent! If you are interested in learning more about the teenage brain, this article is an informative yet quick read:
And if you found my suggestions helpful, then follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn and like my Facebook page: Helen Neary Coaching. You will find more blogs on my website: https://www.helennearycoaching.com/ and contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute session to give you more clarity and confidence on how to best support your teenager through this tricky time. In the meantime, mind yourself.