Parent Support Required

Help -- it's exam time!

Exam season is upon us and, as my daughter. Betsy, pointed out this morning, (note it was her, not me who said it) there are no more safety nets. Now it’s for real. Her first exam, Higher Level History, is on Tuesday, followed by further History papers on Wednesday and Thursday … honestly how much does any one teenager need to know about Chairman Mao? As a parent I need exam stress therapy! 

It would probably be fair to say that Betsy seems a little stressed, so I’ve sensibly suggested that she makes a list of what she should achieve today. I’ve no idea why this has led to such an elongated ‘mummmmm.-e’ response – (do anyone else’s kids do this?) and such extensive eye-rolling. Anyway, she has now disappeared off, fingers cracking, to her room!

Tips to Alleviate Exam Stress

Call me Mrs Marple if you like, but I’m not convinced I’m getting the calm supportive mother role exactly right, so I’ve just loudly announced to Betsy that I am going to leave her in peace and  read my own book, ‘A (Kids) Parents’ Survival Guide to the IB Diploma,  to seek advice on how best to support her at this difficult time. More eye rolling- more ‘mummm –e’, but also just the hint of a smile. (This was written with a friend a couple of years ago, who has had four kids make it successfully through the IB. It is amusingly illustrated by NokIsMe.)
So, what did Lorraine and I say when we were writing the book, safe in the comfort that the exams were not this week?!
Well we’ve written a large section on staying positive, listening, laughing, being a confidence booster, keeping it calm and remembering it’s not forever. That all sounds fine and I’m quite good at that.
We’ve then gone on to talk about having a host of healthy snacks in during the gruelling revision period. I reckon Lorraine must have contributed more to this chapter than me as all there is in my fridge right now is a walnut-whip brought from my recent trip to the UK, (without the walnut – hadn’t realized I’d bought cheap inferior versions) and a plate of mango! Think I better get to the shops or Betsy will be fuelling up on fresh air alone! So much for the healthy breakfasts!
We’ve then gone on to discuss regular exercise and good sleep. I do think these are fantastic stress busters, but Betsy has already told me she has cancelled Tuesday’s gym to prepare for Wednesday. I do understand why to be fair, so maybe I’ll suggest rescheduling. The sleep is crucial, though I think I may have been living on fantasy island when I suggested leaving devices outside of her room. (As if she’d put up with that!)

In the book we talk about encouraging independence in your child. Hmm… I’m not so good at that. Why oh why can’t I sit these exams for her? But then again, thinking about it, I do want her to pass and as my Spanish, ESS, History and Maths knowledge is practically zero that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Hopefully I would do reasonably ok on the English papers at least!

Anyway, what will be will be. I guess the very fact that the exams are upon us means that we have just about survived the IB. Our sections on coursework completion and time-management have been helpful, and if I say so myself, there’s lots of good common sense advice that really has worked. Where the book falls down is perhaps not focusing enough on how I can do a better job of avoiding being an annoying mum! Any tips?

To be honest I am pretty chilled about the exams. Any nerves are only because I want Betsy to feel good about her achievements. She has worked really hard so deserves to do well. What matters to me, so much more than grades, is knowing that the process of doing the IB has set her up with fantastic study and life skills. What matters even more than that, is knowing that Betsy is one of the kindest kids I know and is an all round smasher. (Not that I’m biased, you understand.)

There’s a quote in our book, from one of the very perceptive students who contributed to it, demonstrating that my attitude is perhaps not so helpful.

A Parents' Survival Guide to the IB Quote

“There’s typically the assumption among students that
parents fall into one of two categories: The first is “My
parents aren’t bothered about my grades, they just want me
to try my best,” and the second is “My parents will probably
disown me if I don’t get top grades.” Obviously these are
sweeping generalisations, but neither are particularly
helpful. There’s a difference between ‘trying your best’ and
‘reaching your full potential’ and the latter can only be
reached with motivation from both school and family.”
It’s a bit late for me to address that now, but at least Saint Mick of Thana is on the ball. He has just told us both that now is not the time for either of us to start philosophizing about ‘what is the purpose of exams anyway?’,  and that Betsy needs to crack on and do some studying. (More dictator than saint today I feel!) 
Good luck Betsy and everyone else starting their IB Exams this week.
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