When your teenager is about to take important exams, you may feel as though you're living with a stranger. The extrovert might spend days on end skulking round the house and a sweet nature can become a vicious snappy temper. For the parents of a teenager, it's difficult to do anything right at the best of times - so what can you really do to help?
Trust your teenager
First off, though it may seem easier said than done, trust your teenagers. Their study skills might differ from your own and it might be tempting to offer advice, or suggest additional hours slaving away under the anglepoise lamp, or demand to see reams of notes, but try to bite your tongue. Your child is only too well aware of how important these exams are. Turning revision into even more of a chore than it already is won't help your child's state of mind.
Let them relax - within reason
Relaxing is a key part of the revision process. Though going out every night isn't to be recommended, do recognise that your teenager needs some time out.
Keep a copy of the exam timetable and your child's revision timetable in a family area - maybe pinned to the kitchen wall - so that you know when your child is planning to go out and what work he or she will have done before then. Apart from discipline and planning, scheduled free time also gives your teenager something to look forward to once they've got through the day's work.
Offer an incentive
You might also want to consider offering your child a reward for making it through the exams - depending on their age and interests. Possibilities could include a driving lesson, a meal out, or tickets to the theatre or a sporting event. But don't make the reward dependent on achieving top grades - make it clear that just putting in the work is enough.
Ensure that you and your child share realistic targets - both small-scale, in terms of what they plan to revise every day, and long-term, for example what grades they hope to achieve. Unrealistic expectations will add to the stress in the household - and are bound to end in disappointment.
Don't ask too many questions - but be supportive
When you know your child is feeling the strain of exams, it's natural for you to ask about what in particular is causing the worry. But remember that strings of questions will get interpreted as "nagging"! It will be enough if you remind your teenager that you're happy to listen to them if they want to talk something through. Don't be offended if they choose to offload on to a sympathetic friend of the family or a teacher rather than chatting to you - sometimes it's easier to talk to someone who is a little further removed from the situation.
It is all too easy to lose perspective during the stressful exam period. But failure or a disappointing result isn't a disaster. And if your teenager is a high-achiever and gets the top marks you've been predicting all along, don't forget that even the brightest students like praise from their parents. Remember - and remind your child - that though exams may be important - or seem important right now - they're not the be-all and end-all.