It is the beginning of GCSE exams for pupils in the UK which, for parents, means that our homes have become a danger zone. It a very tense time and we have to keep our wits about us because anything can happen. Hopefully, all the months of revision that has been completed behind the closed doors of our children’s rooms will pay off and they will be excited by the prospect of having the opportunity to pour out all that knowledge and insight straight onto the exam papers. More likely though, it will be a period of last minute cramming, high drama, soaring stress levels and frayed nerves. At times it will feel as if we are at battle with a slightly familiar looking GCSE monster in our kitchens. However, trying to be supportive and helpful may only work to provoke it. Unfortunately, it is also around this time of year that we can count on hearing alarming news stories about exam stress and children not coping under pressure and it only makes parents question another thing that they might be doing wrong.
This year’s Examageddon is including even younger children as it has been widely reported this week in the media that children as young as 10 are succumbing to exam stress by relying on junk food, energy drinks and cigarettes to get them through their Year 6 SAT exams. This often repeated headline with easy-reading statistics appears to have been born from a past survey conducted by the cereal giant Kellogg’s, prompting their introduction of over 200 week-long sponsored breakfast clubs across the UK. Although the survey does not seem to be available to the public online or published anywhere accessible, the story has gained traction and its validity has increased as it has been repeated by more newscasters and in print.
Personally, I haven’t encountered gangs of caffeine-strung out and nicotine addicted pupils roaming through my children’s school grounds so perhaps they are an urban myth. However, I have witnessed the growing pressure that Year 11 children face as they make their final preparations to sit their GCSE exams. So despite being slightly cynical about the validity of the survey and the motives of a cereal company that parachutes into schools providing cereal (but not nicotine patches) for 5 days, there is already much evidence out there that shows that children cope better with stress if they eat right. So starting them off with a good breakfast with plenty of carbs, fruit and a little protein really will help to set them up for battle. It may not change their attitude to their exams, the state of their room or whether they offer the hand of friendship to their siblings, but at least a good breakfast will keep their energy level (and mood) more constant and ensure that they last the distance to finish the paper. My own GCSE monster at home is currently facing 11 GCSE’s over the next 6 weeks. So I thought I would help fuel him with these Banana, date & coconut muffins which are his current favourite breakfast for when he isn’t eating peanut butter and banana sandwiched between toast.