If you have a child who is sitting their GCSEs and A levels this year, it can feel as stressful for you as it is for them. Often parents can feel the pressure of exams more than their children partly because they feel helpless in the process. As parents we want ways of supporting your child through their GCSEs and A levels but we don’t know what support to give. It’s also difficult to get it right. If we ask too many questions, we’re interfering, and if we leave them to it, we don’t care! It’s impossible to find the correct balance.

There are those parents who worry that their child is studying too hard, taking it too seriously and not taking enough breaks. Then there are those parents who are worrying that their child is not studying enough and not taking the process seriously.

Parents ask me for ways of supporting their child through their GCSEs or A levels. There are plenty of things that you can do.

Seven ways of supporting your child through their GCSEs and A levels

  • Family Calendar – Plan your holidays and important events around your child’s GCSEs or A levels and results’ day. Avoid the half term at the end of May, unless it is a destination that you are very familiar with and it is easy to study. However, this year is also an opportunity to have a holiday in term time once the exams are over (if you have no younger children). Check the dates carefully and remember other events like the school prom.
  • Mock exams – January is a popular month for mock exams. It is a new year, a new start. Encourage your child to begin their studies and take their mocks seriously. The most valuable part of mock exams is giving you a pointer as to what is going well and what you need to concentrate on. It is only by studying for them that the gaps and areas for improvement will become clear.
  • Study spaces – Talk to your child about where they would like to study and help them to make that their space. Bedrooms are commonly used, but they’re also where other distractions tend to be, the Xbox, playstation etc. Also, teenagers like to sleep a lot and sleep can often seem very appealing when putting off study. A kitchen table, a landing, a local cafe or library can also be good spaces. A good space is where your child can focus on their work best, as well as being able to leave it once the work is done.
  • Taking an interest – one of the aspects of your child’s education that parents find the hardest is when to ask questions and when to leave. Some children love to talk about what they are doing at school and others definitely do not. Find your moments to ask about what they are doing, what is bothering them and what is going well. It is better to ask and not get a response than to not provide the opportunity to talk. Often activities where you are doing something else or relaxing might be the best time: driving; walking the dog; out for a meal or watching the tv.
  • Offering help and support – ensure your child knows that you are available for them. This could be for testing, talking to a teacher, sorting out a problem or helping with revision. They can then choose to take up the offer or not.
  • Routines – one of the best ways of supporting your child in their GCSE or A levels year is having and sticking to routines at home. These will include meal times, bed times and other routines like activities during the week and weekends. Obviously there are occasions when routines go by the wayside, but the earlier your child can get into a routine of study, the better they will do and when they eat, sleep and relax will help with this.
  • Other distractions (phones and gaming) – how much time your child spends on screens is definitely the one issue that causes most upset and tension in households with teenagers and this only gets worse in a year with important exams coming up. Establish early on the ground rules and routines for use. Ask your son or daughter what they think is reasonable and come to an agreement. They will probably be much stricter than you are and (secretly) welcome the arrangement.

At www.studentnavigator.co.uk we offer academic mentoring and coaching to young people going through their GCSEs and A levels. Please get in touch with us if you would like us to speak to you about our services or sign up to our newsletter.