TOP 10 Tips for Parents of Leaving Cert Students
If you have a son/daughter in your house doing the Leaving Cert this year, the truth is, it’s not just them doing the Leaving Cert, you and everyone else in the house has a part to play in doing the Leaving Cert!
The following tips can help you to play your part!
This year is extremely challenging for Leaving Cert students. If your son/daughter is in 6th year it means that they have missed a third of their classes last year, the feeling of having to make up for this lost time can be stressful.
Then there are questions and more questions – Am I safe going into school? Am I putting others at home in danger by going to school? Will the schools be closing again sooner/ later? If they do, will I be able to cope? (because I fell behind last year). Will it be predicted grades again? Will the points for my course go up or down? If I do get into the course, will I be able to go?
All these are valid questions and the truth is none of us can answer them definitively at this stage. The uncertainty that these questions create can induce a level of anxiety.
Added to this is the fact that the adolescence stage of development is by its nature an uncertain time, it is the time of social, emotional, physical and biological changes which in themselves can cause much anxiety.
Then there is the Leaving Cert exam! Any of us who have done it still have the ‘Leaving Cert dream/nightmare’ many years after the event.
So being aware of difficulty of the Leaving Cert and the challenges of adolescence and all this in the context of the huge uncertainly created by Covid, you can begin to get an appreciation of how your son or daughter might be feeling at the moment.
So, as I said at the start of this, understanding is key.
2. Help to organise a good place to study!
This (along with sleep and food) is a basic need and should be your starting point. Get this wrong and any well thought out study plan, negotiated timetables, fancy folders or clever ‘to-do’ lists will be less effective if not wasted! A good place to study should simply QTC; Quiet, Tidy and Comfortable.
3. Understand the need for equipment – folders/ post-it notes/ notice boards etc.
Senior students are taught to use a wide variety of resources to help them study. Study Skills classes at school will tell them that having a large folder for each subject is essential. Colour coded flashcards help them to test themselves and helps them remember, post-it notes and notice boards helps with goal setting, study targets and time management.
So when they come home asking for post-it notes or a notice board to hang in their room, be understanding, all these small things add up and do make a big difference to their success.
4. Discuss time management – study and downtime.
‘Get up them stairs and do your work’ will not work for most 17-year-old young adults! 10-20 minutes spent discussing and negotiating study time and downtime at the start of the year (or any time that is needed) can go a long way.
Understanding the importance of balance, a healthy mixture of leisure time, study time, sleep, downtime, social time is essential in this process. If teenagers feel that are listened to in a fair and open manner and are given a certain ownership and responsibility over how they spend their time, they are much more likely to make positive choices – mól an óg agus tiocfaidh siad.
5. Screen time
Similar to time management, negotiation here is key. Sit down with your son/daughter and discuss an amount of time with the mobile device that is acceptable to all. Maybe even write it down as a type of contract (this can be done in a light-hearted way but the fact that something is written down does give it a bit more gravitas).
As part of the conversation, get them to check their daily screen time (this is usually in phone settings). They are often shocked (as we all are) to realise how much time we actually spend on our devices. A lot of the time, this gives them an awareness of how much time wasted on their devices and means that the time they agree to spend on their devices is more reasonable and realistic.
6. Regularly ask how the study is going – be specific!
Asking your son/daughter how the studying is going will probably yield a short – ‘fine’ or ‘grand’ or grunt! On the other hand the question ‘what are the hardest parts of writing a French informal letter’ or what part of the Irish course do you think you’ll get the most marks? Opens-up an entirely different conversation (and may induce shock!!).
Being more specific with questions creates a conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on the subject. Get to know a few specifics – subjects, difficult sections, projects deadlines, exam and test dates. A quick look at the Leaving Certificate subjects sections of careersportal.ie (link below), being familiar with the school calendar or simply thinking back to your own experience of education can make the conversation with your son/daughter all the more engaging, positive and beneficial.
7. Offer your help to discuss, test, explain, ask to be taught something, make suggestions.
Research shows that we remember more of what we discuss, do or teach to others when compared with just reading or writing about it. It’s the difference between active and passive learning. It will therefore help your son or daughter if you give them the time and space to tell you about what they have learned. You might spend time asking them questions about it or maybe even get them to teach you something. These actions not only help with learning and understanding but it also makes you part your son/daughters learning.
Don’t hold back on making suggestions. Whatever your experience of education is, your experience of life has given you plenty of knowledge and skills that can be applied to help your son/daughter with their studies for the Leaving Certificate. Maybe suggest different ways on how material could be learned or how a particular question could be answered or maybe how time could be organised.
8. Be aware of resources
There are so many Apps, online resources, YouTube videos, Instagram and Facebook groups that can be of help with study techniques, time management, explanations etc that it is simply impossible for one person to know everything that is out there. Ask what they are using and what works. A quick ‘how to…?’ Google search can unearth many ideas and resources that your son or daughter may not be aware of or thought about using.
9. Constructive, Positive, Praise.
We all have the best intentions to be constructive and positive but reality gets in the way and sometimes unintentionally we can be critical and over judgmental. The extremely challenging situation that Leaving Cert students find themselves this year means that they can feel vulnerable and more sensitive to criticism than normal. The global sense of fear and uncertainty created by Covid means that we are all a bit more defensive and are more tuned into the negative than the positive. It is worth remembering this when dealing with Leaving Cert students. Make a conscious effort to put a positive and constructive spin on interactions. Sincere, well-earned praise given when appropriate can make all the difference.
10. Be there!
Never underestimate the power and importance of simply being there for your son/daughter. In my experience of counselling Leaving Cert students presenting with everything from minor worries to chronic anxiety, the absence of a Parent/Guardians’ time is often a major factor. A simple offer of a cup of tea and a chat, a reassuring conversation or an hour spent watching something on TV together can make all the difference. When your son/daughter feels listened to and supported, life can feel very different.