“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

This was my phrase of the week. A Chinese proverb sprung to mind whilst coaching two 14 year-olds in the run up to their exams.  As if they needed any additional stress in the journey to grown-upness.  Admittedly, I’d totally forgotten the pressure and stress that school exams can create and how you can waste hours of time fretting as if the world is coming to an end 🙁  How important are exams anyway?

To see two lovely teens overwhelmed at that level was not a pretty picture. I saw our sessions turn foggy with worry and fear. Yes, all part of growing up I hear you say and to an extent I agree with you. Although I think it’s important to learn how to prepare for life’s challenges so that they aren’t overwhelming or scary.

I wanted to support these two lovely teens and give them life skills that would not only help them get through their exams, but also help them later on in life.  It all began by taking a small step and that was to change the way they were thinking. With that strong intention in place, here are some of the discoveries that lifted their mood and injected some motivation into studying.

  • We broken our revision plan down into bite-sized manageable chunks.  What once seemed like a hug insurmountable task shrunk right before our eyes.
  • We learnt how to prioritize so that the subjects we liked the least (they seemed to require more time and effort); once they were out the way, we felt lighter and less worried
  • We planned week on week to make sure we were on track and it felt good to tick each hour of study off the list.
  • Of course, there were rewards for all our ticks – a favourite TV programme, a yummy snack, a hour’s surfing the internet, computer games or whatever it was that made us feel good.
  • We devised strategies on how to tackle exams calmly so our anxiety didn’t get the better of us
  • We remembered times in our lives where we had been successful and looked at the qualities we had that got us there – determination, persistence, hard work, patience, positivity, dedication and realised we could apply these skills to our exams
  • We acknowledged that if we did our best that was good enough
  • We realised that ‘This too shall pass’ and that exams were only a temporary time in our lives; nothing can and does last forever
  • We kept our eye on the prize: enjoying our long Summer holiday when the exams were finished; the bit we were looking forward to the most!

What do you do during stressful times to help yourself and your family?

As adults we can easily be stressed out when life ramps up a pace or two. You could be unknowingly passing on your coping strategies to your children.  You may not have noticed but your children watch you and learn from you all the time.  So instead of reaching for the wine, the chocolate or getting mad and shouting at the nearest person to you (sorry these are the things I do so I’m not saying you do them as well!), how about trying some of these:

  • Learn to say no so you can cut yourself some slack and have enough time to get the most important things done
  • Plan head and work in extra time to your diary so that if things don’t go as planned, you can still get them done and if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world
  • Let go of perfection and try to enjoy life in the moment and not how you think it ‘should’ be
  • Stick to a routine and avoid too much change all at the same time -your body will thank you for being  consistent with your eating and sleeping patterns
  • Handle family conflict by forgiving and moving on – an atmosphere can be anxiety making and uncertain. It’s good to know when an argument is over and sorted so normal life can resume
  • Be kind to yourself – the way you treat yourself is indicative of how you treat other people so if you are hard on yourself, it is most likely you will have that expectation of your children as well. I noticed that when I stopped setting unrealistically high standards for myself, that I didn’t feel continually ‘let down’ by other people
  • Give yourself quiet time on a regular basis – put your comfies on and snuggle up with a good book or a movie 
  • Be true to yourself and the way you live your life the pressure to do this is incredible these days; not just from the media but from friends and other people we know. It’s important to feel good enough as you are without comparing yourself to the Jones’s or living up to somebody else’s expectations of you.
  • Be careful that you don’t over react if your kids disappoint you or upset you most of the time your kids will want to please you and your approval means everything to them (they may also at times do the complete opposite to grab your attention!)  It’s not your child’s responsibility to make you happy; it’s yours!

The journey of a thousand miles starts by trying a different approach.  So if your kids would like some help with their exams, I would love to help.

Lisa quickly understood the issue and showed us a number of simple techniques to increase his self-belief.  She showed empathy, warmth and understanding during our four sessions, but also challenged us at just the right moments. Ultimately our son kept his calm, passed the exam and now has the school place he wanted and worked so hard for.  Thank you Lisa – you really made a difference!

Mr S, Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey

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