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How to deal with a 'bad exam'

Supporting your teens as they prepare for their exams is essential in helping your child cope with exam stress and we've lots of great resources which you will find here on on how to help. However, once the exams start things can get even more tense and it may only take one bad exam to throw your student off their stride. So what do you do if they come home upset from a bad exam? We have a few tips:

Help your teen prepare for 'the bad exam'!

Most Leaving Cert students will be sitting seven subjects with Junior Certificate students sitting up to a dozen. The odds are that not all exams will go to plan. The unforeseen may come up and there are usually a few surprises somewhere along the way - despite all the revision and preparation! Remind your teen before exams start that if a paper appears particularly difficult when they first read it, it's likely all students are having the same reaction to the paper and it's even more important to give it their best shot and not to throw in the towel. Remind them that examiners are trying to give them marks, not take them away so write what they know and don't panic about what they don't know. It's also worth reminding them that while one exam may not have gone as well as they hoped, another exam is likely to go better than they expect so they may pick up the points they need on another paper.

Support them

The key to any parenting crisis is always to provide love and support. Give them a hug first and foremost and tell them everything will be ok. You are their back bone right now. It is your job as a parent to renew your teenager's self esteem and their self belief.

Ask why they feel it didn't go well

If your teen want's to talk about the bad exam, ask them why they feel it didn't go well. However, avoid bombarding them with questions if they don't want to talk about it. Remember that this is about them, your primary role right now is to support, not to judge. So look for reasons to re-assure. For example if it was a particularly hard paper, all students will have been affected equally.

Don't criticise

At the end of the day, there is no sense in critically analyzing every little detail of a bad exam. It will only cause more anxiety for your teen for their next exam. Accept that they believe they have not done as well as they had hoped they would. Remember that whatever negative feedback you give them is amplified ten fold in their own minds. Teens are very often their own worst critics.

Calm them

Of course it's important to do well in the Leaving Cert, we all know that. What your teen needs right now is some perspective - the exam probably did not go as bad as they felt it did (hopefully) and you need to display confidence in their ability to perform well in the other exams. Remind them they have worked hard for all their exams and it's important to go in and give the remaining exams their best shot so as to keep as many optons open as possible. If they' re right and the exam went badly, maybe they won't get their first CAO choice but they could still be in with a shot at their second choice. Additionally they will have time when the exams are over to reconsider the choices they have put on their CAO form so those decisions are for another day .... once the exams are over.

Treat them

Your teen needs some positivity to counteract their bad mood. Something simple and familiar will suffice; their favourite dinner, for example. This will get their minds off of the bad experience and will break the cycle of self-pity.

Praise them

On the day of the bad exam and future exams, ensure and remind them of how proud you are of all their efforts.

Click here for lots more resources to help with Parenting your Exam student

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