How to keep your child motivated through exam periods

Long Close School

Keeping up the momentum through exam periods can be hard. Not only has your child got to revise but they also need to stay focussed and calm in order to do their best during the exams themselves. Initially, they might be motivated and dedicated to studying, but what happens when 3 weeks in they start to lose pace and the motivation fades? It can be a hard time for many pupils.

The Healthy Mind Platter for Optimal Brain Matter by Dan Siegel is a useful image to refer back to throughout this period and in this article, we explain exactly how you can use this as a reference point to help support your son or daughter to stay motivated during this busy and pressurised time.

Getting enough sleep
This is key and arguably the most important element on the platter. Beth Kerr, Global Director of Wellbeing at Cognita, says:

“Ensuring a decent night of sleep is crucial to ensuring that connections are built between key chunks of information and then transferred into the safe storage of the long term memory in preparation for their exams. I cannot stress enough how futile compromising sleep quantity and quality is not only to the retrieval of the information needed for the exams but also to the wellbeing of the young person themselves.”

In order to achieve a great night’s sleep, Matthew Walker – author of ‘Why we sleep’ and world expert in this field, strongly recommends the following:

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule – going to bed and rising at the same time each day, including on weekends.
  • Exercising regularly but not too close to bedtime – thirty minutes per day, but no later than 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine – both interfere with the production of melatonin and make it more likely that you will wake during the night.
  • Avoid large meals or lots of fluids before bed.
  • Don’t take naps after 3 pm – they will make adhering to your sleep schedule difficult.
  • Relax before bed – include something that is not related to your studies before bed. Reading a book or listening to music are 2 suggestions.
  • Take a hot bath before bed, the drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath should be soporific.
  • Ensure the bedroom is dark and free of electronic devices – appreciate that social media and games are designed to make it difficult for teenagers to resist them!
  • Don’t lie in bed awake – if you find yourself awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, then get up and do something else until you feel sleepy again.
  • Try to get enough daylight sun exposure to promote sleep-regulating patterns.

Focus time
Rather than trying to squeeze in hours and hours of relentless studying, try encouraging your child to allocate slots of time per subject and make these sessions as focussed as possible, with clear goals for each period. It is much easier to get motivated for a 45 minute study slot on the cold war than 9 hours on Modern World history.

Physical time
Taking time away from the books to get active can have huge benefits, not only physically but mentally too. Exercising releases endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones, it is also a great way to refocus the mind. Playing in team sports also means that your child gets to spend time with friends, doing something they enjoy.

Allowing time to do anything they enjoy doing is important, be that going to the cinema, playing computer games or even just sitting in front of the TV catching up on their favourite shows. This is really important to help maintain some normality during this busy and stressful time.

Connecting time
Find some time to spend together where you can have a real conversation and make sure you’re regularly checking in with how your child is feeling. This could be as simple as making time to have dinner together as a family.

At Long Close School, we work with our students through the exam period and support students and parents to try and make this tough time a little easier. If you would like to learn more about our school, you can download our prospectus here.

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