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Building students’ Resilience and wellbeing skills during exam times

Student studying for exam

By Richard Hogan


In my work as a systemically trained psychotherapist I have spent over 15 years working with adolescents and their parents to help them follow practical steps that build a healthier and more positive sense of self and patterns of communication.

As parents, we know that our children will have to face challenges and adversities throughout the course of their life, but we can help to build their confidence to face life’s challenges by building their resilience and reservoir of skills to help them manage anything life throws their way.

In this blog I outline some of the common pitfalls students can fall into when it comes to exam time and some practical tips to help parents and adolescents to build their confidence and skillset to deal with the challenges of exams successfully.

The Importance of starting to study

One of the biggest traps students can fall into preparing and studying for Christmas exams is not knowing where to start. They often feel that the task is so great, so insurmountable that they don’t actually know where start. So, they don’t. It is very important, if you are to be successful in exams, particularly exams that matter like the Leaving Cert, that you change your mind set about this exam.

So what if there is parts of the exam you cannot attempt, that is not what is important right now. It certainly will be later but in the present moment, you need to get focused on what you can do. What you must do now is work at some areas that you can improve, and be able to do them in the exam. Relax about not knowing it all, it doesn’t matter at this time. When you know a section or two for your Christmas exam, build on that momentum and then for the mocks, study more areas.

Again, you will not be the finished article for the mocks. So, don’t put that pressure on yourself. Any student I have worked with that achieved very high results in the Leaving Cert understood that succeeding in the big exam is about building momentum in all the exams and years before the Leaving Cert. Working towards exams consistently and not putting huge pressure to cram at the last minute is key. Cramming is not a healthy approach.

How to build a positive mindset

Another area that I see a lot in my work as a systemic psychotherapist is that students often bring into life a self-fulfilling prophecy. They hold a negative paradigm about themselves, they say things such as ‘I’m not that good’ and as a result they don’t study. They don’t give themselves the opportunity to succeed and when they don’t do well, it confirms what they already hold as a truth about themselves.

This self -fulfilling prophecy is very damaging for a student’s confidence and wellbeing. You will never know what you are truly capable of unless you really give it a shot…don’t be afraid of not reaching what you want to.

Have courage and get a solid and healthy study timetable going. Start to bring into life a positive idea about yourself. ‘I am good enough, and I can achieve’. If you believe this anything is possible.

Top tips for parents to build students’ resilience skills

Using my experience as a family psychotherapist and the strategies I have developed over many years of working with adolescents, I have built a course on the Wriggle Connect Family platform outlining how, as parents, we can build our child’s confidence and resilience skills.

These tools can be used to help your child overcome adversity, not only when it comes to exams, but in any situation they find themselves in.

Reframing adversity

As parents we often want to remove adversity from our children’s lives. However, this in turn removes the opportunity for our children to learn and to build the skills to deal with future adversity. Instead of removing the challenge we can reframe it as a chance to learn ways of dealing with life’s challenges.

Model Positive Behaviour

Our children and teenagers learn from watching us as parents and how we deal with challenges in our own lives. Calmly explaining to your child the process you go through, for example if you can’t find your car keys, helps them to develop a structure and steps to resolve their own issues when they arise.

Empower your child to make decisions

Something as simple as allowing your child or teenager to choose an activity the family will engage in demonstrates to him or her that you trust them to make decisions. This in turn gives them the confidence to believe in themselves and their ability to make decisions.

In the introductory video to my course on Building Students’ Resilience and Wellbeing below, I debunk the myth that one child is born more resilient than another.

To help parents build resilience skills for their children, I have developed a course on the Wriggle Connect Family platform. The course covers:

  • The science behind resilience
  • Reframing and externalising
  • Technology, sleep and resilience
  • How do we build resilience?
  • Top tips for building resilience
  • Check out the course today to start building these key skills for your children.

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