Our Director, Jemma Z. Smith, is proud to be an admin for Sabah Hadi’s popular group – The 11+ Journey. The Education Hotel offers these group members a free resource of our popular WOW words for 11+ and Jemma also hosts Facebook LIVES for members on topics such as: how to tackle the last 3 months, how to plan for 11+ in Year 4 and interview skills for 11+ interviews.

Sabah is a parent to 2 children and has supported them throughout school. She believes strongly in being an advocate for your child, but also appreciates the stress that being a parent can bring.

Below is Sabah Hadi’s response to the question, ‘What can parents do to alleviate stress caused by children’s academic pressure?’ Edited for clarity.

A Lot! First of all, acknowledge that there is stress and external pressure brought on by society, school, social circles and internal expectations as a result of what’s happened in the past or family history, etc. We live in a world where we are constantly judged, and it is up to you – parent or carer – to learn how to deal with it. Many may already know how, but we all need regular reminders.

Vent it Out: Write, Talk and Debate. Next, you need to vent these feelings. Discuss this with your child, your partner and friends. Social media is a good place too, but some opinions may come across as toxic. Make sure your influence metre is in check. Take criticism constructively and block out mindless remarks that can put you down. Focus on practical ways to dial down the stress. A great way to express feelings is to write them down. A journal is a good place or, in simpler terms, a book or a piece of paper where you note down the things troubling you.

Spend Time Together. Doing things together for at least a few hours will help you and your child in ways that may not be visible, but it makes an impact. Cooking and eating together, speaking and discussing world affairs, stories about friends, discussing the best option for a school project and organising a timetable for the week or upcoming tests. You can use a variety of methods, and there is no best way to do this, nor is there a manual on how to do it. Trust your instinct and dive into time together.

Switch Off. Take a break, close the books and do something different. You will come back rejuvenated to work on them later. As a parent suggested, certain hours are meant for a guilt-free time away from books, studies and the endless grind of academics. Another spoke of having something planned, such as an activity to look forward to. It makes it easier to shift the mindset. Boring work becomes exciting if they know what’s at the end. Consistency is great and should be a part of daily routines; however, unplug regularly and come back refreshed.

Be Flexible. Don’t get hung up on the idea of a certain school or destination for your child. It creates a pressure cooker atmosphere, and as a parent pointed out, it helps to have other less academic options to choose from. Giving your best to the work required is the important thing. Focusing and enjoying the journey more than the destination is what you want to try. Reward children for the small wins, and big joys will follow.

Be Present, Not Omnipresent. By all means, support your child – encourage, help, inspire and motivate them. However, also make sure you let your child develop as a human being. Give your child access to resources, invest your time, energy and money in their development, but give them choices. Make them feel valued, give them agency and see them flourish. It is a delicate balance to establish, but try. You’ll be surprised at the dividends.

Sabah Hadi is a mum, writer and education facilitator. She is the creator of The 11+ Journal, available on Amazon. It is a book for children aged 6 to 12 to aid expression and self-regulation. She is also the founder of The 11 plus Journey, an educational community with a growing Facebook page and group.

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