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Struggling With Pressure of GCSEs: What to Do?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 11 Oct 2014 | comments*Discuss
 
Exams Gcse's Studying Stress Study

Q.

I do not know how to help my 15 year old son. He is really stuggling to cope with the pressures of GCSEs. My husband is qualified and trained in one of my son's GCSE subjects, so helped him hugely with his coursework yet he has been marked with an F and it seems to have sent him into meltdown.

I caught him crying and shaking in his room and staring into space. Despite our efforts to talk to him I am at my wits end and can forsee him sinking into deep depression or having a complete breakdown. He has tried to talk to his tutors and we have had several meetings with some of them but they are inundated with other pupils and do not seem to have the time or energy to hear him out. I have an older daughter embarking on university who is setting some of her valuable time aside to help him but at the end of the day he simply can not cope.

Can you offer ANY advice please?

(J.S, 4 May 2009)

A.

Your son is under a tremendous amount of stress at the moment, as evidenced by the crying, shaking and staring into space. This stress is undoubtedly affecting your son's ability to concentrate on his coursework and focus on studying for his exams. This then means that relieving the stress must become your first order of business. It may be that you need to give your son permission to take a week or so "off" from studying so that he has time to rest, relax and recharge his batteries. See that he indulges in his favourite hobbies and has some social activities to help clear his mind.

At the end of this time off, sit down with your son and discuss his exams and his future. Ask him what he wants to do with his life, or even the next few years, and really listen to his answers. Then, together, work through how his GCSEs will help him get there. This may sound like going over the same ground that you have already covered with your son, but remember that there is obviously something happening in his life now that is making these exams so stressful. Does he not want to do them? Does he have another plan for his life? Does he feel that he must attain a certain mark for you to be proud of him or love him? Don't be afraid to discuss these hard topics with your son. Even if he does not bring them up, you should.

Once you all understand what your son wants and how he feels about these exams, try to set up a study schedule. Mark out with your son when and where he will study, and with whom. Then try to outline which topics will be covered in each session. By breaking down a huge amount of work into more manageable pieces your son might begin to feel more comfortable with the challenges ahead.

However, if you do suspect that your son can not cope with his exams then you may need to look at reducing the number or putting them off for a while. Watch for signs of the depression and/or breakdown that you worry about and, if you feel it necessary, ask others (teachers, tutors) to watch as well. If you need to get a mental health professional involved do not hesitate to do so. Remember, exams are important but so are your son's health and well-being.

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Lots of this advice is very poor.Taking a week off study just increases the pressure.The issue is not motivation, so the discussion about what you want to do in the next two years is misplaced, and will make matters worse. The child needs help in coping with immediate and medium turm workload, so support, help with organisation, ensuring sleep, working up a study plan together and day schedues, working supportively alongside them wiht time management, and reward are the things needed to help.
Sage - 11-Oct-14 @ 8:41 AM
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