Monday, 31 March 2014

Revision, Stress & The Easter Hell-idays

At times like this home life can become emotionally fraught, but parents can really help by keeping things on an even keel.  What is best avoided is getting ourselves fraught with worrying (about the pressure they are under),  feeling as if we are driving the revision process (and taking over the responsibility) or being the family fun sponge (gritting our teeth whilst they are parked up in front of another down-time screen based activity).
We had a meeting with our publisher this week to talk about the impending launch of our book (May).  The bestseller “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective…...” came up in conversation and made us think about which 7 highly effective parental habits might help us to guide our family through the choppy waters this holidays.  We have calculated that there must be several million households (with children aged between 11 and 22) in a similar boat.      So here’s our top 7.  

1.     Keep Calm.  Reduce own stress levels.  Breathe deeply when crisis prevails, take some time out - go for a walk, have a bath or read a book.  Any strategy, which reduces our own emotional pressure, will improve our tolerance levels and avoid the lid blowing off and upsetting the family balance.
2.     Be positive.  Emotions are contagious so being upbeat will have a subliminal effect on our child.   Recent studies show that the physical act of smiling changes how you feel and think, try it. But don’t confuse being positive with flattering as this is liable to be interpreted as insincere and an effort to instill false hope.  Also be careful not to be annoyingly jolly, or you may inflame anxiety and negativity. 
3.     It’s the way you say it.  Our emotions leak out through how we communicate.  So if we need to address say the daily revision schedule, what is likely to cause our child’s shutters to come down is our voice tone.  A nice voice may be read as thinly veiled sarcasm and suggestions may be read as nagging and lecturing.  
  • When skirting around a potential landmine, an opening gambit should be something like: “I’m sure you have already got it sorted but….. 
  • Asking questions work better than delivering statements:  ”I was wondering what your plan/thoughts were about ……….?”
4.     Drop the reins What happens in a crisis is the mind goes into meltdown and focuses on the route to failure rather than success, worrying about how much work there is to do, putting it off and telling yourself it’s impossible.  Worry wastes valuable mental energy and trains the brain to adopt this habit when under pressure.   What the brain actually needs to do is turn and face the challenge and busy itself with coming up with an achievable plan of attack.  Parents can play a valuable role, but in order for your child to then feel up to the task, the ideas and plans must be their own and not yours.
5.     Don’t rescue  Tempting as it is to be really kind or uber helpful, the process of being your child’s knight in shining armour may stoke their frustration or lethargy.   Your involvement suggests no-confidence in their ability to do it themselves.  If your child feels in charge, this fires them up emotionally and it kick starts the brain’s motivation/memory/attention centre too – all pretty crucial during exams. 
6.     Keep lines of communication open.   Reflective conversations can’t be planned, but when the opportunity presents itself, grab it.  I want my child to know that I am here and available, but the planning and execution are their responsibility.   I want them to set realistic and achievable goals as opposed to 20 A* in La-La land.  I want them to imagine that when they get their results, that they can look back to now and have no regrets because they gave it 100%. 
7.     Be a good role model of work/life balance.  The brain is like a muscle and if you are working out a fitness schedule it would involve little and often to build up strength and endurance.  Downtime, family time, mealtimes, hobbies, early nights, a short holiday and having fun are strategies which work wonders to boost energy and attention levels.  TV and screens tinker with the brain’s motivation and focus ability – watch/play/surf as a reward at the end of a working day.   

We know we wont achieve all of them all of the time, but having a plan is better than unintentionally lurching from crisis to crisis…….
Happy Easter  
Janey & Naella