Making the grade in life, as well as in State exams.

This week, more than 59,000 students will begin the long nine-month trek to the Leaving Certificate exam, summiting in mid June. For many, this test of endurance and resilience will lead toexhaustion, mental health issues and burnout.

But it really doesn’t have to be like that. And as parents, we have to help our children manage the sinuous road to the exams. I often here parents describe the house in terms of ‘eggshells’ and being a ‘tense place,’ where all conversations are about the exam and getting a place on a desired course. And I often wonder how can a student study with such pressure on them.

Young adults seek out my clinic this time of year because their anxiety, about the year ahead, has almost paralysed them. When I’m confronted with a teenager like that, I start by exploring what the exam means to them and whom in the family unit are they trying to prove something to.

Parents often describe their own relationship with the exam as if they are the ones undertaking it again. I hear them, consumed with the point’s race and which University is better for their child to go to. And of course most of us want our children to go to University because we know the opportunities that will open up to them.

However parents can often, unintentionally, place incredible strain on the psyche of their children, which is counterproductive to their child succeeding because the child labours under such high expectations and collapses under that weight. So, how you talk to your child and manage their expectations and experiences in the year ahead will be significant if they are to succeed.

The pressure on students is considerable; they have to compete with so much, classmates, peers, siblings, and family, not to mention all the other students in the country. They often come to hold the view that to compete at this level they must stop all extra curricular activities.

They feel they must focus entirely on the exam, as they mistakenly believe everything else is a distraction that will ultimately keep them off the points they so desperately need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To be successful as a student, extra curricular activity is vitally important.

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Making the grade in life, as well as in State exams

By Richard HoganFacebookTwitterMessengerLinkedInWhatsAppMoreThursday, August 29, 2019 – 11:00 AM

This week, more than 59,000 students will begin the long nine-month trek to the Leaving Certificate exam, summiting in mid June. For many, this test of endurance and resilience will lead toexhaustion, mental health issues and burnout.

But it really doesn’t have to be like that. And as parents, we have to help our children manage the sinuous road to the exams. I often here parents describe the house in terms of ‘eggshells’ and being a ‘tense place,’ where all conversations are about the exam and getting a place on a desired course. And I often wonder how can a student study with such pressure on them.

Young adults seek out my clinic this time of year because their anxiety, about the year ahead, has almost paralysed them. When I’m confronted with a teenager like that, I start by exploring what the exam means to them and whom in the family unit are they trying to prove something to.Learn more
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Parents often describe their own relationship with the exam as if they are the ones undertaking it again. I hear them, consumed with the point’s race and which University is better for their child to go to. And of course most of us want our children to go to University because we know the opportunities that will open up to them.

However parents can often, unintentionally, place incredible strain on the psyche of their children, which is counterproductive to their child succeeding because the child labours under such high expectations and collapses under that weight. So, how you talk to your child and manage their expectations and experiences in the year ahead will be significant if they are to succeed.

The pressure on students is considerable; they have to compete with so much, classmates, peers, siblings, and family, not to mention all the other students in the country. They often come to hold the view that to compete at this level they must stop all extra curricular activities.

They feel they must focus entirely on the exam, as they mistakenly believe everything else is a distraction that will ultimately keep them off the points they so desperately need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To be successful as a student, extra curricular activity is vitally important.

I always tell students; down time is as important as your study time. If you give up everything that brings you joy and peace of mind you will not succeed in the exam. A healthy student is one that knows how to study and knows how to relax.

I get invited to talk in schools a lot, this time of year and the majority of my talk is centred on the importance of remaining engaged in activities that are healthy for the mind. I also talk to the students about the destructive impact alcohol has on their brain, how it disturbs memory and concentration. They are certainly becoming more aware of the truth about alcohol.

I ask the students to make a list of what helps them to relax and be still and calm.

They are always a little shocked that I’m not standing in front of them, telling them to study more. When I ask the students to give me feedback on their experiences of the year, they generally complain about sleep disruption, fatigue and not being able to meet their friends as much as they would like. Nothing impacts the productivity of a day more than sleep disruption the night before.

More and more students are turning up to class exhausted.

There are myriad reasons for this; of course technological devices impact melatonin production, which is the hormone that promotes sleep. Also the pressure on them to get a good night sleep is so great that it actually disrupts their ability to sleep and often they are studying so late into the night that they find it almost impossible to unwind.

And this is why extra curricular activities are vital if they are to be happy and healthy as sixth year students. Your child should not be studying late into the night, it is unhealthy.

And the fact that students are complaining that they are not meeting each other at the weekends highlights the isolation forced on them by the exam. We must make sure that they are meeting their friends, we are mammals; we do not do separation and isolation well.

So, to be healthy, they must feel connected to each other and have an outlet to blow off the steam that will inevitably build up over any given week.

The year ahead will be challenging. But with the right attitude and approach it will not be all consuming and destructive for your child’s psyche. We must show them how to manage the stress that will arise.

We must promote healthy behaviours like remaining involved in activities that keep them connected and fit. We must remember; the Leaving Certificate is not the be all and end all of life.

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