Exam time can be a stressful time of year for the whole family.

Mum and Dad may be working flat-out preparing for the closedown of business over the holidays.  Meanwhile, the family’s teenage members can  be facing examinations. And, for older teens, there could well be NCEA exams looming, with all that entails for their future careers.     In the lead up to NCEA, students will probably have a number of weeks of study leave.  Most of them can be relied on to take their studying responsibilities seriously.  Even so, parents will want to ensure their kids take full advantage of this period to prepare for their exams.

So how can you stay involved without taking time off work and without breathing officiously down your teen’s neck?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Talk to your teen about how you’re trusting him or her to stay focussed on studies
  • Make sure your teen understands why these exams are important. Reinforce the idea that success is typically a product of hard work
  • Whenever appropriate, praise your teen’s efforts and commitment
  • Establish clear boundaries over what you expect but make sure your boundaries are reasonable
  • Make it absolutely clear if you don’t want friends visiting whilst your teen is at home studying and you’re at work
  • Ask your teen to develop a study timetable which both of you can review and discuss.
  • Ask for a copy of the exam timetable or print one off the internet for yourself, so that you know when stress levels are likely to be at their highest
  • Discuss where your teen will study (e.g. at home, at school, at a local library or at a friend’s place). If it’s at home, make sure your teen has a dedicated study space that they feel is theirs
  • Help your teen develop time-management skills and recognise the need to balance study with relaxation. All work and no play is bad for everyone
  • Talk to your teen about what will happen after the exams. If tertiary study is on the horizon, plan a time after the exams when you can both sit down and discuss what needs to be done next
  • Wish your teen all the best the night before or on the morning of the exam. Text your teen after the exam. Alternatively, you could encourage him or her to text you and let you know how it went.
  • Be there for your teen throughout this period. If she or he needs to talk, be prepared to listen.
  • Keep your sense of humour. This stressful time will pass!

These steps won’t, of course, guarantee NCEA success.  But they should help teens give their best shot whilst helping them to grow as responsible, self-motivating young people.

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Geoff Andrews is CEO of TOUGHLOVE Auckland, part of a nationwide network which organises support groups for parents of teens. A former teacher with three adult children, Geoff believes that boundaries, consequences and consistency are vital to parenting teenagers. But he says that love is also an essential part of the mix.

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