This Post: 10 Tips to Support Your Child During Finals Week So They Don’t Freak Out
Just this past weekend, my son who’s in college came home for Easter. Nearly the entire time he was home, he talked about upcoming finals week – how much studying he had to do, that he was worried about holding his GPA, that he had to get on the ball and form study groups with his classmates and buckle down.
As hard as I tried to assure him that a couple of days off from the rigor of school and studying wasn’t going to make that big of a difference, I couldn’t seem to calm his nerves. He was borderline ‘”freaking out.”
Whether your child is in high school or college, finals week is stressful for them. In fact, just the mere mention of finals is enough to put most students into a full-blown anxiety rush. And, who can blame them? Having so many tests piled on them in such a short time span, not to mention the impact one poor finals grade can have on their GPA – it’s tough!
To help your student get through finals week with as little stress as possible (because let’s face it, they will be stressed), here are a few things you can do as a parent to support your child and take the pressure off. Check out these 10 tips to support your child during finals week.
10 Tips to Support Your Child During Finals Week
#1 Encourage Them to Eat Well and Get Plenty of Sleep
When our kids are stressed out and studying for final exams, it’s easy for them to grab a bag of chips and a Coke when they’re hungry and skimp on sleep, but this is exactly the time they need to prioritize eating well and getting a decent amount of sleep. Getting enough zzz’s and eating healthy can make all the difference in the world when it comes to managing stress and their ability to stay focused.
Help your child out by encouraging them to take power naps when possible and get to bed at a reasonable hour (if possible). Also, make sure they stay hydrated and eat a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner so they stay energized throughout the day.
#2 Help Them Create a Study Calendar and Stick With It
Before finals week hits, your child will likely have a pretty good idea of the material they need to focus on in each class. Rather than winging it, encourage them to create a detailed study calendar that will help them not only think about what they have to get done but also see it in black and white.
They can start by creating a simple calendar that highlights all their exams by date and then setting realistic goals for each class/exam. Goals should be specific, i.e. create 50 flashcards, form a study group, or type study notes for Chapter 2. Then, have them break down those goals into achievable tasks, and add them to their calendar, i.e. study Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-8 pm for AP World History, meet with study group Tuesday and Thursday from 7-8 pm., etc. It also helps to have them prioritize the exams they know will be the most intense or difficult so they are given far more priority over those they feel they might be able to breeze through.
Hint: Finals week should really be finals month. Encourage your child to start studying a few weeks in advance to avoid cramming just days before the exam which will only stress them out more.
#3 Talk About Available Resources
A few weeks before actual finals week, encourage your child to meet with each of their teachers/professors to talk about what resources may be available to them to help them ace their finals. Most teachers and professors offer several review sessions which your child should always attend (even if they think they know the material) and they’ll likely have a study guide for your child to refer to when creating their study calendar.
There are also plenty of online study resources that can make studying easier. My daughters use Quizlet which offers step-by-step approaches to solve tough problems along with other resources like flashcards. Check out these other study apps! Lastly, if needed, consider hiring a tutor a few months before finals to help your child review important information and improve their knowledge in subjects they might find difficult.
#4 Remind Them to Take Breaks
On average, the brain’s ability to work effectively starts to diminish after 25-30 minutes of intense effort. Keeping that in mind can help your child to “hard focus” while giving themselves breaks in between to refresh their brain and body. A lot of students swear by the Pomodoro Technique – a time management system that encourages you to work with the time you have – rather than against it.
The system breaks down work into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks (referred to as pomodoros). The idea behind the technique is that the 25-minute timer instills a sense of urgency so the student makes as much progress as possible in that time frame as opposed to squandering the time procrastinating.
#5 Ask How You Can Help
As parents, we don’t always know what our kids need or how we can help… so ask! I know when my daughter was deep in the throes of studying for finals, all she wanted from me was “not to ask her to do anything around the house.” She needed to focus fully on studying and the thought of me asking her to take out the garbage or empty the dishwasher was just too much for her.
Rather than guessing, ask your child what you can do to make finals weeks easier and less stressful for them. Trust me on this one, they’ll appreciate your desire to help! Hint: I send my college kids “finals week” care packages to offer encouragement and let them know I’m thinking of them!
#6 Help Them Avoid Distractions
According to research conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, professor emeritus at California State University, “The typical student is distracted for at least five out of every 15 minutes they set aside to study,” most often as a result of texting and social media use.
But texting, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t the only culprits. A cluttered desk or study area can also be distracting along with loud noises like people talking or dogs barking, incoming phone calls, and constant notifications and emails making it nearly impossible to focus.
To avoid distractions, think about getting your child noise-canceling headphones (which are especially great for college kids living in busy and loud dorm rooms) and encourage them to put their phone on “Do Not Disturb.” They can also look into downloading one of the many anti-distraction apps – all of which can make a world of difference when they’re trying to study. Here are the best apps to help your teen focus and avoid distractions.
#7 Encourage Stress-Relief Strategies
It’s important our kids have a few healthy coping strategies in place to help them manage their stress and get through the week. Whether they take a walk, jog around the block or head to the gym, any form of exercise is great to relieve stress and help clear their head. Other ideas include chilling out and listening to music, watching their favorite Netflix series to take their mind off of everything, hanging out with friends, or just closing their eyes for a few minutes to relax and unwind.
#8 Take the Pressure Off
Finals week is not the week to lecture your child about how their bedroom is always a mess or why they haven’t written a thank you note to grandma for the birthday present she gave them. Push all those “reminders” by the wayside and focus instead on doing everything you can to take the pressure off.
Cut them some slack with their chores, do little favors for them to make life easier, and keep home life peaceful. The more relaxed your child is and the less pressure they feel at home, the more they can focus on preparing for and getting through finals week.
#9 Offer Encouragement (But Don’t Go Overboard)
Sure, our kids need our encouragement, but we also have to keep in mind that too much encouragement will put pressure on them to succeed and, they already have enough pressure to deal with. Instead, drop them a short, “You studied hard and you’re ready – I know you’ll do great!” text or leave a note on their bathroom mirror in the morning. Also, a supportive hug from mom or dad before they walk out the door can be just the encouragement they need to tackle the next final exam.
#10 Stay Positive
Chances are, when finals week arrives, your child won’t be in the best of moods. They could even be snarky and irritable. To keep things on an even keel, stay positive and optimistic. The more upbeat and positive you are, the more your child will feed off of that. (Obviously, don’t go overboard.) Also, if needed, talk your child down from the mountain of self-inflicted perfectionism that might be weighing them down. Let them know you only expect them to try their best, that you love them no matter what, and that their grades will never define who they are or their future possibilities.
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