Parents of exam students urged to seek help by mental health watchdog

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A mental health watchdog is urging parents of Junior and Leaving Cert children to seek help, as they too, can feel at a loss as stress and nerves mount ahead of next month.

The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) is offering advice to parents and students prior to the State exams getting underway early next month.

The PSI is warning that the exam period can be an extremely challenging time for parents along with their children.

The exams start on June 5 for more than 100,000 students with results expected to be announced on August 13. Last year more than 120,000 were involved in State exams.

Jennifer Twyford-Hynes, Clinical Psychologist and Chartered Member of the PSI, said: “Exams are just one example of a situation that can challenge your child and perhaps your parenting.”

Ms Twyford-Hynes pointed out that parents should reflect on their own experiences of exams in their lives.

“(Parents) should consider if their feelings about exams and their consequences could be influencing (their) teenager’s response to them. Is there anything that would have benefited you that you might be able to provide now?

“Offer a child space to express any concerns about exams without trying to rush to solve the problem or reassure. Focus on using words to show them that (as a parent) you understand. Often that might be enough to provide them (and yourself) with relief in that moment.

Young people are repeatedly receiving the message in school, online and from the media that exams are important so they probably don’t need an additional reminder of this.

“If it doesn’t appear that a child is doing much studying, it is unlikely they do not care at all, they quite likely have complicated feelings about them. It is possible they may be overwhelmed, hopeless or afraid of failing. (A parent) should try their best to be a model of good self-care practice.”

Added Ms Twyford-Hynes: “Young people benefit from having their parents as role models who look after themselves in times of adversity. Is there any way you could improve any of these elements in your own life so that you may inspire your child?

“(Parents) should note the ways in which they take care of themselves in stressful situations, and demonstrate how to look after themselves to their exam children, through good nutrition, sleep, exercise, enjoyable activities, accessing social support and relaxing activities.

“One of the positives about exams is that we know when they are definitely going to end. Once they are over, take the opportunity to reflect on how your family is doing. Was there something that worked well to help your young person to cope and is there anything different that could be done to help with a stressful situation in the future.”

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