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Anxious dd in GCSE year - how to help?

(11 Posts)
bookwormsforever Thu 12-Sep-19 11:35:34

My dd is really badly anxious this year. It's definitely not helped by all the teachers telling the girls every day what a stressful year it's going to be and how hard they will have to work!

On top of that, she's having friendship issues and arguing with her boyfriend. It's exhausting.

She's at an all-girls grammar.

Do you reckon it's worth contacting the school to ask her form teacher to ask teachers to tone down the pressure they're putting on the girls??

In her mock mocks she got a mix of 6s, 7s, 8s and 9s, but she's worried she's going to fail maths and chemistry. She won't listen to me when I tell her that she doesn''t need to get 9s in everything; she's a perfectionist and very hard on herself. Doesn't help that some of the girls in her class are getting straight 9s.

We're only at the start of the year. What will it be like by June?

I'm worried that she will do something silly. She has self-harmed in the past.

Any advice would be wonderful.

Off to read the CGSEs thread too...

OP’s posts: |
LolaSmiles Thu 12-Sep-19 11:52:41

I think there's a couple of separate issues to tease out.

1. School doing the school pressure thing. You've almost got to encourage your DC to switch off from it. High performing girls are more at risk of anxiety and being terrified of struggling or failing (often to the point where they'll not want to attempt work or do things just in case it isn't perfect or they don't get top marks). The fact the school are ignoring this is really poor form in my opinion.

That said, I don't think there's any point calling to tell the school to ease their message to be honest, because people send their children to a highly academic school because of the results and they want those outcomes for their children. School is doing what the parents, implicitly, are demanding in terms of expectations and results.

2. Girls in her class getting straight 9s is utter bollocks. The school can't possibly know what a 9 looks like as it changes every year. Again, I'd encourage her to ignore that, which is hard because of point 1 (and those girls are typically competitive and routinely compare and judge against each other)

3. Friendship and boyfriend issues need to be almost compartmentalised. Talking to her to find out what the exact issues are may help give you a way forward / if you know people can advise.

Personally, I would talk to her head of year about her situation, her struggles, the wide issues and see what (if any) pastoral provision can be put in place in school. Equally I think you may have to be prepared to find your own mentor/counsellor out of school as from what I've seen on MN some of these schools don't have brilliant pastoral support.

She's lucky to have a mum as caring and on the ball.

TeenPlusTwenties Thu 12-Sep-19 13:08:20

What does she think she needs for the next step?
Does the grammar school expect very high grades for A levels?

Would it help her to look at criteria for entry to other 6th forms to see that 6s & 7s are perfectly fine?

LittleAndOften Thu 12-Sep-19 13:21:18

Could you afford a tutor in one of the subjects about which she's worried? I work as a tutor and the biggest part of my job is instilling confidence. This confidence often then filters through to other subjects as the strategic approach to taking exams becomes demystified. It could really help.

TeenPlusTwenties Thu 12-Sep-19 13:32:14

If there is money to spend, I'd spend it on a counsellor, or yoga.
I wouldn't spend it on a tutor which might lead the DD to believe they need a tutor, when they clearly don't.

EducatingArti Thu 12-Sep-19 13:42:14

I am a tutor and I advise my anxious students to not look at the outcomes ( eg grades) but as much as possible, just the work she needs to do in the present moment. Then the grades will be whatever the grades will be but they can't do any more than their best in the current moment.
So I'd help her devise a sensible study/revision routine that allows for exercise, recreation, down time etc. There are some good books that can help with this. Don't ask her to do it by herself. She will probably need your support to allow sufficient recreation time.
Then all she has to do is 'follow the plan' day by day and the results will look after themselves. They will be whatever they will be! Obviously she needs to apply for 6th form based on whatever is a sensible estimate of what grades she might get but there is usually room for making changes if she decides something different. Tell her if the grades are different to those expected you will decide a plan B then.

bookwormsforever Thu 12-Sep-19 13:44:26

She has a tutor for chemistry.

Her mock mocks showed that she's achieving more than she needs to get into sixth form.

We have gone over the grades she needs to get for subjects she wants to take at A level - 6s, which is of course doable - and looked at what unis want for the kind of courses she thinks she'd like to do.

I have thought about counselling. She had some before, and it worked at the time. We can afford it, luckily.

@LolaSmiles - thank you. Your post made me cry. it feels like I'm getting it all wrong with dd at the moment. I've tried telling her to ignore stressy messages from teachers, but they're obviously more powerful than I am!

I mean marks in the mock mocks - some girls did get all 9s (marked as per the GCSEs last year). She knows that the border for a 9 moves for each subject (which is another ball-ache, but let's not get started on that).

I will email her form teacher/HOY, I think.

I'v spoken to her several times about friend and BF issues: about self esteem and having boundaries for how you let people treat you. Work in progress...

I've suggested yoga and mindfulness but she scoffs, because obviously, I know nothing. hmm

She does mindful colouring and has a good bedtime routine.

OP’s posts: |
bookwormsforever Thu 12-Sep-19 13:45:01

Thanks, @EducatingArti! Can you recommend any books?

OP’s posts: |
LittleAndOften Thu 12-Sep-19 13:47:49

Confidence in exams comes from fully understanding what's ahead, and having a plan - whoever helps - tutor, parent, friend or teacher. Yoga is about as far away from tackling the problem as you can get. As a teacher for 17 years, tutor for 3, I've helped many, many anxious students prepare for their exams. Most of the new tuition enquiries I get are from parents whose child is scared of exams, and intimidated, and they don't know how to help. Even if the child is highly able, anxiety can prevent them from performing unless they are fully prepared.

OP, it's not unusual for your dd to feel overwhelmed at this stage. You can help build confidence by finding out exactly what is involved in each exam she will take, and supporting her by making a plan. It's the fear of the unknown which is driving this, and if she is that affected she won't fulfil her (excellent) potential without unpicking what's its actually going to involve.

EducatingArti Thu 12-Sep-19 14:15:14

A couple of students I know have used this one:
but if you search for revision planning/planner on amazon you will find others too.

Seeline Thu 12-Sep-19 16:44:13

Make sure she has stuff to do outside school, preferably with people not necessarily at her school eg Explorer scouts/Rangers(guides), dance, music etc. It's good just to get away from it all!

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