My recent posts have given advice to new sixth year students and their teachers, but what about the final piece of the puzzle? Parents have a central role in the learning of children of all ages, and those who have a Leaving Cert student in the family are responsible for providing support throughout their exam preparation. Whether you are an experienced Leaving Cert parent or guiding a child through sixth year for the first time, the advice below will help you to survive the year as a family.
1. Communicate with your child
Communication and trust are necessary in any relationship, and letting your child know that they have your full support as they prepare for their exams is vital. Encourage them to do their best and avoid putting too much pressure on them to do well. Listen to their hopes and concerns, and reassure your child that you can solve problems together and that the Leaving Cert is not the most important thing in their life.
2. Be involved
The easiest way to get information about your child’s learning is by attending parent teacher meetings, and this is particularly important in sixth year. Familiarise yourself with the child’s Leaving Cert subjects and encourage them to find extra support for areas that are difficult for them. The importance of parental involvement in the CAO application process cannot be overstated – ensure that your child is confident in their choices and that the form has been filled in correctly to avoid complications later in the year.
3. Educate yourself
Understanding important aspects of the Leaving Cert such as the points system will allow parents to support their children throughout the year. Read your child’s CAO handbook to understand how the application process and the points system work. Check how much weight is given to oral and practical exams where relevant, and keep a copy of the Leaving Cert timetable in the house. Research the options that will be available to the child after their exams and check the minimum entry requirements for their chosen course or college.
4. Introduce balance
While it may seem natural to discuss the Leaving Cert with your child, make an effort to talk about other things as well. Remember that physical and mental health are vital this year and encourage healthy eating, sufficient sleep and exercise. Some parents feel that participating in extracurricular activities such as sport and music will affect the child’s performance in school, but these activities will provide a much-needed break. Encourage your child to spend time with their friends and family, reminding them that it’s not all about hard work.
5. Connect with other parents
With roughly 55,000 students sitting the Leaving Cert each year, most parents with a child in sixth year will know somebody who has been there and done that. Experienced parents of Leaving Cert students may provide advice to first-timers, and others who have no experience will be going through the same difficulties throughout the year. Other parents can share information about the Leaving Cert that you may have missed, and connecting with each other will create a support network for all aspects of sixth year.
6. Stay strong
It may sound melodramatic, but staying strong while your child prepares for their exams can be difficult. Reassure yourself and your child that the Leaving Cert is not the end of the world and that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Ensure that your home doesn’t become dominated by exam pressure, particularly if you have other children, and remember that Leaving Cert students must learn to work independently and handle some aspects of the year on their own. Sixth year can be difficult for all involved, but the happiness and relief when the hard work pays off will be worth it.
Armed with the above advice, Leaving Cert parents and their children can have an enjoyable and successful year. Tweet us @adaptemy and let us know your tips for parents of sixth year students!