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The Straits Times
12 September 2016
In the run-up to exam time, sit down together with your children and work out the best times for revision. Make a revision timetable on a big piece of paper and pin it up somewhere prominent.
When it comes to revision, research shows that little and often is better than overlong sessions. Cramming at the last minute is also counterproductive, so it is best to start early and put in the groundwork while there is still time.
LEARN WHAT WORKS
We know that different people have different styles of learning, and it is important your children are working in the way that is right for them. Find out what motivates them and use it to your advantage - be it a goal, such as doing well in an exam, or building a skill, such as learning a language. But do not use bribes. This puts undue pressure on your children and sets the wrong precedent. They should want to achieve for their own sake, not yours or because there is a cash reward in it.
GET SNACKS ON THE GO
Put the kettle on and buy plenty of healthy snacks for your studious workers - the healthier, the better. Any food high in omega-3, such as oily fish, flaxseed and walnut, supports concentration and cognitive function.
Foods high in antioxidants, such as fruit - especially berries and tomatoes - and moderate amounts of caffeine can help concentration.
Green tea and dark chocolate, which are especially rich in specific antioxidants called polyphenols, can also support brain function. Ripe bananas or sunflower seeds are great to snack on because they naturally increase dopamine - a brain chemical involved in increasing motivation and concentration.
WORK THE SPACE
Set aside a calm room or space for revision, and invest in some large plastic boxes to keep books and resources tidy and easily accessible. Ensure that, where possible, this space is kept well organised and clutter-free, because it turns out that the old "tidy desk, tidy mind" saying might actually have some truth to it.
Researchers at Princeton University have found that if our environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts our ability to focus. Clutter can also limit the brain's ability to process information - so keep those desks clear.
POOL YOUR SKILLS
It may be that some parents in your social group are better at science or maths than you are, so a skill swop to support your respective offspring might be the answer.
Parents more knowledgeable in physics could facilitate a tutorial, while you could coach a group in English. You could even rope in other family members with expert knowledge or subject specialisms to help handle the task of revision.
TAKE A BREAK
Research has shown that spending time outdoors in green spaces such as parks or woodlands decreases stress and anxiety, so try and incorporate some of the great outdoors into your child's revision routine in the lead-up to exam time.
Encourage your teenagers to take a break from the studying - it will help to recharge their minds.
The writer is a senior lecturer for PGCE Primary, Cardiff Metropolitan University.
This article first appeared in The Conversation (http://theconversation.com), a website which carries analysis by academics and researchers.