If you currently have a child preparing for GCSE’s or ‘A’ levels, you may be in the unenviable position of experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress, heightened emotions or even mild depression emanating from your child. As a parent, you obviously want the best for your children but these times can fray the best of nerves and can possibly be testing your relationship.
Schools, these days, give adequate advice to pupils on how to study, revise and prepare for exam days on an academic level but, according to some parents I’ve encountered, quite often can be lacking in their support, or sometimes even acknowledgement, of the psychological issues that may arise during this period.
Normal levels of stress can help people work and think faster and more effectively but when anxiety is overwhelming, performance can be badly affected. When our limbic system, our “emotional brain” becomes overwhelmed with perceived threats or anxiety provoking thoughts this puts our body into fight or flight mode as stress hormones flood our system. This is the opposite of the neurological state we need when we are trying to focus and learn. In this anxious state, our prefrontal cortex, the area which deals with abstract thinking and thought analysis, is not able to function adequately and thinking becomes unclear and memory formation problematic.
So what can you do, as a parent, to support your child in feeling more positive and less anxious during these times?
• Try not to nag or be too critical – this can also be perceived as a threat by a stressed out brain.
• Gently encourage exercise as a means of de-stressing. This can be especially helpful in teens with depression. (1)
• Eating nutritious foods, particularly those with a low glycaemic index, can be another way of stabilisingblood sugar levels and therefore moods. This does mean cutting down on refined carbohydrates and sugar. (2)
• Encourage your child to find ways to relax which suits them. Spending too much time studying without adequate breaks or relaxing intervals can be counter-productive.
• Teenagers really do need more sleep than adults. So make sure they get some earlyish nights and not to study too close to bedtime as this does not allow the brain to quieten down before sleep. (3)
Daniel Kronenberg works as a clinical hypnotherapist in Bath and Salisbury. He specialises in working with children and teenagers who experience anxiety, low confidence, low mood and behavioural problems.
He can be contacted through his website: www.dkhypnotherapy.co.uk