10 Revision Strategies that actually work

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Google ‘How to revise effectively’ and you will get over 13,300,000 results. Now of course I am not saying that I have read all of these, but I think it is a pretty safe bet that not one of them advises reading through all your notes the day before the exam and hope for the best. Some kids really struggle with revision, and often don’t know where to start. The old favourite of highlighting key information in texts a few hours before the exam isn’t always effective, yet many students favour this as it’s not very demanding.

So what are the most effective ways to revise? I will tell you!

1.       Remember that all this has to be carefully timetabled. Consider an athlete preparing for an event or an actor preparing for role. Would they start the day before? Of course not. This is exactly the same for exams. The sooner you start the better.

2.       Make a revision timetable that spreads out all your subjects and their topics, so that you are revisiting them often. Research has shown than cramming does not work. Instead you need to keep on top of every subject every day (A Level), or every few days (GCSE). Include a variety of strategies like the ones I have listed below!

3.       Read notes and make flashcards

4.       Use past papers to test yourself. Make sure you are practising for the exam method, so if your English exam requires you to write an essay on Romeo and Juliet, then your test should be just that. Many of the marks available will be rewarding essay writing skills as well as subject knowledge.

5.       Allow yourself to fail. It really is OK! This will show you the gaps in your knowledge. Go back over your flashcards and test yourself again.

6.       Mind map key concepts. Display these on your wall!

7.       Use worked examples and check them against the assessment criteria. Look at examples for the grade you want, but also ones below and above. Make sure you understand how and why they have been graded differently. Then write a checklist of all the things you need to do to score that mark.

8.       Teach someone. This is where parents you can be extremely useful! Get your teenager to teach you about the topic they have been studying that morning. Then relay back what they have taught you, and allow them to correct you. This will be a real confidence boost for them, as well as consolidating their learning.

Just to add, these tasks should be spread over 5-7 days. Research shows that cramming is the least effective way to revise for exams. They key is to distribute tasks evenly over a long period of time (think athlete and actor!)

If you think your teenager may need some extra support and mentoring during this stressful time then why not email me and arrange a clarity call? This season is stressful for the whole family. Let me take some of that away and help get your son or daughter exam ready.

 

Our kids and Social Media- teach them to 'hold it lightly'

When parents ask me how to help prevent their kids from becoming addicted to social media, this phrase always comes to mind. If we want our kids to stop comparing themselves to filtered and unrealistic images of people online, if we are concerned that they are seeking validation from their number of followers and likes, and if we worry that social media and its expectations are making them feel anxious and controlled, then we need to teach them to hold social media lightly. But how can we do this? Here are my 5 top tips.

  1. Find their spark

    Get your kid interested in something, anything that does not involve them looking at a screen too much. It doesn't really matter what it is-it could be football, ballet, pottery or a really passionate interest in climate change. Support their interest and cultivate it. Give them as many opportunities as possible to get stuck into it. It will give them validation outside of social media, and help them to feel that sense of belonging that they may be looking for in the online world.

  2. Gratitudes

    Teach your teen to practice gratitudes. Get them to write down at least 3 things that they are grateful for, and get them to do this every day. It may sound a bit ‘woo’ but research has shown that people who do this regularly are happier and more confident. It will help them to see how rich their life is in so many ways, and that they have so much to look forward to. It will help them to gain perspective, and of course it will enable them to develop a positive attitude to life. This will transfer to how they approach their time on social media. They will be less likely to compare themselves, get FOMO. In short, they will ‘hold it lightly’.

  3. No sleeping with your phone!

    Make this rule in your house; no-one sleeps with their phone. It has such a damaging affect on sleep quality, and makes people feel they are contactable 24 hours a day. I also believe that having your phone so close to you while you sleep is making a massive statement about how significant it is in your life. Hold it lightly, and leave it downstairs. Go old-school and buy an alarm clock.

  4. Teach them to be media savvy

    Spend time teaching your kids how to read images. How is a photo trying to make you feel? Why does it want to make you feel that way? Could this image be manipulating you in any way? What is its message? How does that message sit with your values and beliefs? Is everyone being represented in this image or on this feed? Or is everyone white and able-bodied? How do you respond to that? It is so important that our kids know when they are trying to be sold something, and essential that they can see when some people in our society are not being represented and know that that is unacceptable.

  5. Practice what you preach

    If you want your teen to be in control of their social media activity, if you want them to be served by it rather than enslaved to it, then check in on your own relationship with the online world. How do you talk about it? How often do you have your phone in you hand? Do you talk about people on social media? What sort of words do you use to describe them? How do you describe yourself? Model the behaviour you want to see your child displaying.

    Finally, make sure they see you having plenty of face-to-face interaction with people. Put the phone down when you are speaking to your partner, friends, the cashier in the supermarket. Let them see that you value what people have to say, and that nothing beats communicating with people in real life.

I hope you find this useful! Please add in the comments any more tips and ideas!

How to not get in an arguement with your teenager

It’s a tricky one isn't it? Teenagers are renowned for being challenging, and whether you are there in the throes of teen parenting and finding it really tough, or you fear your little ones reaching this stage of their development, do not lose hope! There are ways to talk to your kids about the things that are going on in their lives without it resulting in door slamming and tears.

Step into their world

I have written before about how important it is to ‘step into their world’ when talking to teenagers. Whether it’s stressing about not getting homework done on time, or breaking up with a boyfriend, or wanting to spend just ten more minutes gaming, this stuff is their life and they do not know any different.

When faced with one of these scenarios, depending on how you are feeling in that moment, you might be quick to jump in and dismiss their feelings.

“You should be more organised and get your work done on time!”

“Don't worry about him. You’ll have forgotten about him by next week.”

“Computer games rot your brain.”

…and you have a point. All these responses are true. But remember you know this because you have been there, you have life experience, and that comes from making the mistakes and learning from them. Your kid is experiencing these things for the first time, and whilst it might be painful to hear this, that may not give two hoots that you have ‘been there, done that’ and they may not welcome your advice.

So what to do in this situation?

Listen.

Acknowledge their feelings and identify them.

Show them that you understand that they are feeling rubbish about this, and try not to dismiss these feelings by brushing them off. Allow your kid time to feel these emotions before offering advice on how to move forward. When they are ready, ask them what the first step might be for them to feel better. What can they do about it? Having acknowledged and identified their feelings with empathy means they have probably calmed down a bit, and will be in a better position to see a way forward. Gently encouraging them to think about the next step will empower them, reassuring them that they are capable of dealing with this effectively in their own way.

“It’s a horrible feeling knowing that you are going to miss a deadline. I am not surprised you are angry. Is there anything you can do about this right now? Ok, so it looks like you are going to have to face the music with your teacher and just whatever punishment she gives you for it. What can you do next time to make sure this doesn't happen again? Because it hasn't been fun has it?”

“I expect you feel heartbroken about this. I am so sorry you are feeling this way. It’s really hard isn't it? Where are you on the scale of 1= miserable, 10=deliriously happy? Is there one thing you can do to push yourself up one on the scale?”

“It’s really frustrating to have to stop playing your computer games-I get it. I bet you feel really angry with me right now. But you know, sometimes it’s OK to not like me, sometimes I have to put these boundaries in place to keep you safe. It would be great for you if I let you play non-stop all day but then how would you get any other stuff done? What else can you do now that isn't gaming, because time is up on that. Perhaps we could do something together?”

Taking the time to acknowledge their feelings is so important and is vital for effective communication.

Will this work?

Some of these responses might seem a bit cheesy. You might think they would never work with your teenager, and that may well be the case if you don't usually converse with your son or daughter in this way. But why not try them? Be transparent with your kid too if you like! Have a joke about the fact that you are trying a new parenting style, that you really do want them to feel like they are being heard and that their feelings matter. And if these methods don't work straightaway then play the long game and keep at it. This stuff can take time to adjust to if it’s not your usual way of managing challenging behaviour. Give you and your teen time to get used to it.

Try this method out the next time your teen is bubbling up over something. Allow them to feel all the feelings. Empower them to think about the next step they need to take to overcome it.

For (almost) daily tips and advice come and visit my Instagram and Facebook page @theteencoach.

Find their spark: ways to help your kids limit their screen time

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Recently I was asked if my experience with teens has had an impact on myself as a parent and it made me stop to think. I hadn’t really made the connection before but when I thought about it I realised that it absolutely has.

Find their spark

As you know I feel very strongly that teenagers need to find their spark, that one thing that lights them up. If teens have ‘it’ then everything else falls into place. They have a reason to be motivated, they find a sense of purpose and belonging, they care deeply about something, they show up and are committed.

Having a spark can also provide opportunities for kids. Just yesterday I ran a workshop on healthy relationships with social media to a group of teenage girls from various local dance schools. It didn’t take them long to figure out what their spark was-they had been dancing since they were little. When I asked them what this provides for them that social media can’t I was inundated with answers; working with young children, starring in productions, traveling the country, keeping their body and minds healthy. These girls have had a wealth of opportunities because of the joy they have found in dancing.

 

When I worked in secondary schools I would often come across kids who did not have any hobbies, interests or strong beliefs about anything. These were the kids who watched too much TV and spent hours on games consoles. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe kids should be allowed to watch TV and spend time gaming, it’s important for kids to keep up with their peers and have cultural capital. Most young people want to fit in as it makes them feel safe in this often vulnerable stage of life. But when too much time is spent on screens there is little time for anything else. What’s more, there is little desire to DO anything else.

How has my experience with teens impacted myself as a parent?

 I am on a mission to give as many opportunities to my kids to enable them to find their spark. It’s difficult (but not impossible) for teenagers to take up a new hobby. They often start to feel shy and self-conscious when starting something new. However, if you catch them when they are younger they are often bolder and don’t really consider being the new kid as a problem.

So yes, I am a chauffeur for my kids. I take them to various clubs and activities after school most days. We subscribe to First News, a weekly newspaper aimed at young people, to help our eldest get used to reading and learning about current affairs (a year’s subscription was a birthday present from his grandparents). He doesn’t always read it willingly, and would be happy to skip to the puzzles at the end, but we have it built into our routine now that when we are waiting for his brother and sister at their ballet class we read through the articles together. I do strongly believe that kids just want our time and there are so many ways we can give it to them.

I have 3 children so it does require a lot of ferrying about, and it is expensive. I am very aware that we are in a privileged position to be able to do this; I work from home and we have the resources to be able to make this part of our rhythm. But there are loads of things parents can do that don’t cost anything.

Cost effective ways to find their spark

Helping your kids find their spark does not have to be expensive. It could be that a strong belief about something is the thing that fires your child up. It could be that they really love animals and care deeply about animal welfare. How can you keep that spark alive? Talk to them about it, help them do some research. Perhaps they could get involved in an organisation that campaigns for animal rights.

Other things we do include taking them places at the weekend and we always try to keep costs low. We go to our local beach to play football, swim if it’s warm, and we always try and encourage them to do a five minute beach clean and talk about why that is important. They love doing various arts and crafts projects. They love helping me and my husband cook. I struggle to keep my cool with these sorts of activities because of the mess that it inevitably involves, but I try my best to keep calm (this doesn’t always happen) and let them carry on as it is all part of the bigger picture- finding their spark.

This may sound like we are the perfect parents. We are not!

I am aware that this post may sound like I am a super parent. I assure you I am not. It has taken us a long time to get to where we are with this, and it hasn’t been an easy journey. There are many days in school holidays for example when I know my kids have had too much screen time because I have needed that break to just get through the day. My kids watch TV and play on the iPad every day when I am cooking dinner. They often have TV in the mornings when my husband and I are getting everything ready for the day ahead. Our culture likes to make us feel guilty about all the things we are doing and not doing as parents. When something goes wrong with a young adult, the parents are often the ones we blame. The guilt we feel about getting it right can be overwhelming; we can all be super hard on ourselves. All we can do is what is right for us and our families. Time away from screens and being shown other ways to pass our time is always a good idea.

Life is always better offline

Providing opportunities for our kids to see that life does exist outside of social media and screen time will show then that actually life is better offline. So if you have younger children then think about how you can lay those foundations in the early years in a way that fits best for your family. And if you have teenagers and you are still unsure of whether they have a spark then don’t lose heart. Keep insisting on that family time and talk to them about the things that matter to them. The spark is there, it just might need a little oxygen and fuel from you to get it burning brightly.

Is Social Media affecting your daughter’s well-being?

A recent article in The Guardian explored the link between girls’ use of social media and an increase in depression and anxiety. Many things came up; poor sleep habits, comparison, likes as a form of validation, and young people being anxious about their online image.

There was a lot of call to social media giants to take responsibility and action. Whilst I don’t disagree, I also believe that it is important that we teach our young people how to have a healthy relationship with social media. It’s essential that they remain in control, that social media serves them and not the other way around.

So how do we do this?

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I talk a lot about kids finding their ‘spark’. I first came across this idea when I read Steve Bidulph’s ‘Raising Girls’. He talks about girls needed to have their ‘spark’, the thing that brings them joy and helps them to find their place in the world, nurtured and ignited in their early teen years. Based on research initially carried out by Dr Peter Benson, a leading expert on adolescence, children with sparks do better at school, are happier and confident, engage well with adults and so on. Although their spark may change as they get older, it is

your way of being in the world- artist, creator, writer, athlete, leader, carer, inventor, mystic, activist - this is your deep self, and that fire will keep you alive and sparkling until the end of your days.

So where does social media fit in? Is it helping to keep the spark alight or is it putting it out? Too much time on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and following people who trigger comparisonitis could be keeping it dim. By talking to your daughter about the benefits of curating their own feed, treating it like a magazine they want to read, could help keep their spark lit. Because if they follow people who share the same interests it can give her a different group ‘friends’ than the ones she met at school and has stuck with whilst her interests and beliefs have developed and grown.

With social media she has the opportunity to find a group of like-minded people who will support her passions and cheer her on.

We can never fully replace face-to-face contact and real life social interaction. But whilst social media is here to stay for a while then we have to find a way to make it a positive experience for girls (and boys too!) We ate the last generation to remember what life was like before it, and they are the first to not know a life without it. They are the pioneers; they will make mistakes. What we can do is give them guidance and support so they can charter their own course.

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Why I object to the word 'Adulting'

Using adult as a verb has become commonplace in the last few years. Type it into a hashtag search on Instagram or Twitter and you’ll see that most posts are negative, showing the mundane and tedious aspects of adult life such as paying bills and even going to work.

It concerns me that our next generation of adults, Generation Z or iGen, are putting off becoming an adult as they are afraid of growing up. Us as parents are doing too much for them. Our lion and lioness need to protect them and keep them safe is not preparing them for adult life.

When I was a teenager I could not wait to leave home and live with my friends and earn money, and this was a common feeling amongst my peers. This is no longer the case for the snowflake’ generation.

So can we fully blame social media and the overuse of ‘adulting’? Perhaps not. However, it is part of a bigger picture of what is happening in our culture right now. We live in an age where children are as safe as they have ever been; we don't let them play out in the streets unsupervised, we don't let them walk home alone from school, we give them smartphones so they can contact us in case of emergency. I am not saying that we shouldn't be doing any of these things. Of course we must keep our kids safe. However we also need to make them feel empowered, capable, brave and self-sufficient.

Sir Anthony Seldon, political historian and educationalist wrote that

“The way to improve mental health is to help young people to recognize that they are moral agents who are responsible for their own levels of happiness or unhappiness. I think we infantilise our young people and we make them into victims by making them feel they have no efficacy. If you blame conditions, blame other people for your unhappiness, the unhappiness will continue.”

We need to empower our young people. We need to give them the confidence to know that they can get stuff done. They need to be reassured pressure and stress is OK, in fact it’s a normal part of life. Failure too is ok. The sky will not fall in if their target grade at school is not met that term.

Making sure that you show up, work out and try different strategies to solve problems, look fear in the eye and do it anyway will encourage mental resilience.

If we teach our kids this growth mindset then we will help them to look forward to becoming an adult rather than putting it off for as long as possible. Let’s help them look forward to the bright future that they deserve.

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Why I do what I do: My story

Trigger warning: parental and sibling death

I’ve hesitated over sharing this online, as my story like everyone’s, is personal. The reason I decided to share was because it is at the core of what I do. It is my ‘Why’. So here’s my story.

When I was 16 my mum died of cancer. 11 weeks later, just 7 days after her 15th birthday, my little sister died of cancer also. It goes without saying that this was an extremely difficult time in my life, and nothing was ever going to be the same again.

My sister and I were really close. We were two years apart and both had the same unruly curly hair. Our mum used to dress us in the same clothes sometimes, and we shared a room right up until she could no longer use the stairs, and had to sleep in a bed my dad begged the hospital to provide for her so she could die at home.

She was funny, sharp, beautiful and obsessed with horses. I liked them too-but not as much as her. When her consultant told us her cancer was back and it was terminal my parents bought her a pony-even though they couldn’t really afford it. We spent our weekends riding. About 9 months later she died. We sold the pony after that. I didn’t really want to ride without her. I’ve only ridden once or twice since then.

My mum also died of secondary cancer. She died knowing that the youngest of her 5 children would join her soon. She was our world and we adored her. She too was funny, sharp, beautiful and creative. And she loved us so much. She loved her friends. She loved my dad and said ‘yes’ when he popped the question only two weeks after their first date.

We grew up in an emotionally privileged home and I am grateful for that everyday.

When we were told that their cancer was terminal I still didn’t quite believe ‘it’ would happen. I still believed that by some miracle they would survive. When they didn’t I was in shock for a long time. I didn’t receive any counselling because I didn’t think I needed it. Coaching was something I had never heard of. I went back to school, took my A Levels and went to University. Looking back I know I was telling myself I was fine. But I wasn’t. Deep down I was keeping myself small, not letting myself believe that magical things could happen to me. I had hoped before and look how that had turned out.

Through working with my coach, the amazing Ray Dodd, and digging very deep and journalling almost every day, I now know that this seminal moment in my life has affected almost every decision I have made since. I went into a job that I knew was safe and that I would be good at, but I knew I wanted to do more. But how could I? I cant dream big. Right? The big magic doesn’t happen for me.

After a lot of work that is still ongoing, I am allowing myself to believe it can happen. I have been too scared to play big but not anymore. You see, I have realised that I HAVE been brave in my life. I was brave to allow myself to fall in love with my husband and have unwavering faith in our marriage. I have been brave enough to be a mother (3 times!). I have been brave enough to leave a job I was very good at because it just wasn’t what I know I needed to do. It wasn’t the thing that fired me up.

So there you have it. That’s my why in all it’s messy, complicated glory.

I cannot allow teenagers, whatever their story, to keep themselves small. I cannot allow them to believe the cultural noise that they are not enough, that adulthood is scary. I cannot allow them to believe that success is measured only by exam results. I cannot allow them to put all their trust into these limiting beliefs.

So that is why I do what I do.

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Half term with teenagers - 6 tips for getting them off their phones and out having fun

Yesterday, whilst doing the weekly shop I bumped into a mum I know. She has two teenagers aged 12 and 14. I asked her how her half term was and her reply broke my heart. She said it was hard. Really hard. She told me that neither of them wanted to do anything. Her son, the 14 year old, was only interested in playing online games, and her daughter tried to meet up with friends but none of them replied to her messages. She told me she wished they were younger, that this age for her is the hardest yet.

I believe her half term experience is a common one; parents desperate to get their kids out and about and enjoying themselves, and feeling like a failure when their kids refuse.

This generation of teenagers sometimes known as Generation Z or iGen are addicted to their phones. We know it and they know it. So how do we as parents and adults who work with teens help them to put down the phone and enjoy their school holidays?

Here’s some advice and tips I’d offer this mum, and other parents out there in similar situations;

  1. Don't be afraid to impose some rules about screen-time even if no other parent is doing it. From talking to many parents of teens they all say this is a really tough one as they don't want their child to be the only one to have these rules. It’s interesting that everyone is saying this and yet no one wants to be the first parent to only allow 1 hour of screen time a day. What would happen if we ALL did this? Wouldn't it be amazing if this became the norm? Do it, and tell the other parents you are doing it and you might well start a trend. Don't forget, there are many apps available that help control how much time they can spend online.

  2. Set some ‘date’ times with each teen. Talk to them about what they would like to do; perhaps it might be to go for a coffee and cake, dinner, a film. Carving out some one-to-one time with them is so important and whilst they may roll their eyes at you and say they don't want to do it, they will be glad you made the effort. Just make sure that phones are left in bags-yours included!

  3. Encourage your daughter who is messaging friends and getting no replies to call them to arrange a time to meet. There are so many reasons why people don't reply to messages, and sitting and worrying about this is a waste of time at best, anxiety-inducing at worst. Electronic communication is linked to poor mental health whereas interacting in person is linked to good mental health. As yet we don't really know the effects that electronic communication is having on our kids’ budding social skills, however we do know that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. So gently encourage your daughter to call up her friends and meet them in person for a catch up.

  4. Encourage your daughter to journal about some of the feelings and worries she has around her relationships. It has been proven that ‘effective journaling can result in many positive outcomes and improvements to your quality of life’. Getting your daughter (and son-he can join in too!) into the habit of effective journaling will be equipping her with a life skill that will boost her mood, enhance her sense of well-being, reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam), and so much more.

  5. Encourage them to exercise. Ah those endorphins! I almost never feel like going to the gym but whenever I do I always leave feeling on top of the world. And we all know that exercise is one of the most effective way to feel more energised and less anxious. I would always advise that you model behaviour for your kids. In this case that means getting out there and exercising too!

  6. If your teens are into violent/fighting gaming then sign them up to a Martial Arts class where they will learn the skill of these ancient forms of fight sports in real life. There are so many benefits to training including increasing self-discipline and boosting confidence, physical fitness, and meeting new friends. They will also learn that fighting is not always gratuitous and bloody; it’s about showing up and training hard, respecting your teachers and training partners, learning skills and tactics. Plus it’s really good fun and you never know-they might just prefer it to playing online!

    Do you have any other tips to share? Please add them in the comments below.

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How to parent teenagers: Top Tip

Parenting teenagers is hard. There is no denying it. Sometimes you feel like you have the best relationship, but quite often there are times when you feel like banging your head against a brick wall.

For that reason I wanted to share with you my number one top tip for parenting teenagers. Get this right and everything else should fall into place!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is all about COMMUNICATION!

Keeping lines of communication open is the bedrock for a great relationship with your son or daughter. If you want your kid to be able to come and tell you the things that worry them then having the foundations of regular communication is so important.

If you are one of the lucky ones then you’ll already have this with your teen. If not, then how do we cultivate it?

Start with making it a regular thing so it doesn't feel weird for them (or you!). For example you could always ask them about their day at dinner, or before they go to bed if evenings are busy in your house. Make sure phones (including yours!) are put away so there are no distractions. Whilst it might feel a bit unnatural at first don't give up! Keep trying. All kids want to feel and safe and even if they are unresponsive at first they will be feeling glad you’ve asked them.

Do you have any advice or tips to share about keeping lines of communication? Hit me up in the comments below!

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