How to protect your child from 11-plus stress – PART 2
I covered two ideas in Part 1: the importance of setting medium-term goals, and when (and how) to start thinking about exam timing.
In this second article, I explain how the right approach to school applications can help to reduce stress, and how to encourage a healthy attitude to failure.
If you’d like more focused exam preparation advice, please see my school entrance exam and interview guides.
3) Spread the risk
This advice is for families with a number of local selective schools to choose from.
It’s very common for parents to say that they have decided only to apply to one or two schools in order to reduce stress for their children.
For some families, this will be the right decision. However, over many years as a tutor I often saw how the opposite approach can make things easier
If a child knows that they have very few chances to get into a ‘good’ school, the pressure can be enormous – and counterproductive.
On the other hand, while the idea of sitting six, seven or eight different schools’ exams would inspire horror in most adults, I have seen many children tramp happily from assessment day to assessment day, enjoying the new experience and the break from ordinary schoolwork; and performing extremely well across the board, because the large number of opportunities takes away the pressure from each test.
4) Don’t let your child develop a fear of failure
For many adults, fear of failure is a powerful motivation. This is also true for some children; but for most, it quickly becomes discouraging. As I mentioned in Part 1, few children are inspired by long-term goals – but these can feel like a burden.
For this reason, it’s extremely important not to let your child worry about life questions which start: “But what if …?”
Encourage them to feel that success in their exams would be something to be proud of; but on the other hand, however strong your fear that they won’t win a place at your favourite school, keep it to yourself!
Reassure your child that whatever happens, they’ll end up happy and successful and in a good school.
This is especially important if your child is aiming for a grammar, and the alternative is a comprehensive which you don’t much like. Your child needs to believe that the grammar school would be great, but that they will have a splendid time whatever happens. It’s essential to convey this message, even if you don’t think that it is likely to be true.
Protecting your child from a fear of failure will put them in a much better frame of mind to perform well – and make it more likely that your private fears aren’t realised.
5) … But don’t get stressed about stress
Despite everything I’ve said, it’s important to remember that a certain amount of stress is unavoidable – and a natural response to an important milestone like the 11-plus.
If you act wisely and help your child to keep it under control, a little worry from time to time isn’t always a bad thing.
Robert Lomax worked as a school teacher and tutor for many years. He is an educational author and publisher and writes the popular RSL Educational blog.
© Robert Lomax 2018