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Coping with educational pressure during this period of lockdown – tips from Academic Mentor and Life Coach Charlotte Kennedy.

This is an incredibly difficult time for all of us and even those who have not previously suffered from anxiety will be feeling incredible pressure due to the new situation we are in and the bombardment of alarming news stories online and on TV and radio. In order to cope with these pressures, families need to adapt and work in partnership with each other.

Here is my advice for parents of school-age children and for young people and adolescents who are now back at home and studying, while their parents are perhaps working from home for the first time ever and not through choice.

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Use this time positively – longer conversations at breakfast, additional time to read, a time for meditation. 

For parents:

Work with children rather than telling them what to do. Encourage your children to think for themselves and create their own solutions. Of course, they will need your support, but by allowing them to come up with their own answers, their confidence will blossom and they will be more likely to take on greater challenges.

Keep to the same routine as you would whilst at school but feel grateful for the additional time you now have due to the lack of commuting. Use this time positively – longer conversations at breakfast, additional time to read, a time for meditation. 

Parents working at home for the first time in these extraordinary circumstances shouldn’t think they can suddenly do everything at once! It will be tough at first but you will get there. Demonstrate to your children how to balance working at home with new distractions.  Put Saturday mornings aside to clean the house / do the washing etc. and try not to incorporate these activities into your working weekday.  If you are able to follow effective time management, your children will recognise the structure and follow suit. 

If a peaceful atmosphere is to be maintained, it is essential to remain positive.  With this in mind, drop the criticism.  Our psyches can fall into positive or negative circuits.  Once we allow negative thoughts to creep in they can begin to dominate and become difficult to shift.  This is particularly relevant during stressful periods.  A good way to switch onto a positive loop is to focus on the positive and forget the negative.  Try to catch yourself before you make any criticism, no matter how big or small.  Instead really look for the positives and comment on them.  This is as important for yourself as it is with your family.  Really try to pull out the positives of how well you are managing everything, rather than being self-critical or stressing about not getting everything 100% as you think it should be. 

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Meditation – a minimum of 12 minutes of meditation per day is needed to reap the benefits. Those who meditate regularly have a split-second advantage over those who don’t, by being able to choose their emotional response to events. This ability to self-regulate and to think before exploding, is vital to maintain a peaceful and productive home.  Have a look at some of the excellent meditation apps. For children under 11, Mindfulness for Children by Uz Afzal is a great book that you could give them as a gift or read with them.

For young people:

Be kind to yourself.  We are creatures of habit.  Forming new habits requires new neural pathways to be created.  This can be an arduous task and takes time for new behaviours to become habitual.  With this in mind, be kind and gentle with yourself and your family. We are all adapting to new ways of life, so do not expect too much of anyone. 

Use the Easter holidays to review how your academic went over the past term and consider how things could be improved. Be creative in your approach to learning and consider how you learn as well as what you should learn i.e. what methods of study work best for you? Which period of the day is the most productive? Are you at your best in total silence or with some background music? Make use of our parents’ experience as a resource. Over lunch or dinner share with them what you have learnt today and perhaps explain it to them.  Not only will this reinforce your learning, but it will help the family unity during this period of enforced confinement. 

Motivation – this is particularly relevant to those who have had public exams cancelled this year.  This will have been a huge disappointment and it is worth recognising the distress this has caused. Reach out for further help and support if you need it. Once you have come to terms with the situation, begin work on your academic goals for the next stage.  Consider writing down three key goals and pinning this up on the wall in your bedroom. Remember to note down what you have achieved each day to show the progress you are making towards your goals.

Relax, breathe, work hard and enjoy the family time.  You have your health and that is the really essential component during all of this. 

Charlotte Kennedy is an Academic Mentor and Life Coach and TRC Edinburgh.

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