Dads-of-Teens: How to Help Your Teen If He Has Failed the Prelims

ages & stages treeFinally, the results of the preliminary examinations -the prelims- are out.

You see before you on the report card, a sea of Red ‘F’s -Red for auspiciousness and F for Fantastic? Not really.

You want to cry, hide away and panic, but you have no time for all that. The finals are days away and you are clueless about every subject, every topic -everything. Alright, maybe you really should panic!

By the way, it is the dad who is breaking out in sweat in the scenario just described, not the student.

As any father will concur, a teen’s preparations for the examinations can be most testing. It often consists of sleepless nights; the father tossing and turning, frustrated about not being able to help. Heck, the last time you touched Mathematics and Grammar was eons ago!

Do not worry. Here are some simple ways to turn the situation around.

1) Encourage, Evaluate and Enlist Help (from Teachers)

Your teen probably feels fearful and sad. As Dad, tell him that he has you and your wife’s unwavering support, and that you believe in his ability.

Analyse your teen’s prelim papers to find out where he is lacking. Call up the school and ask to speak to the teacher-in-charge of the subject he is failing in. That teacher clearly knows your child’s strengths and struggles in his studies. Find out how you can work with teachers to help your child.

Quite a number of schools have taken the initiative to open up classrooms or libraries for students to revise late into the evenings, with teachers on hand. These are invaluable resources that your teen can make use of.

2)  ‘Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan’

This is a great time to teach your teen to make plans to achieve his goal. Sit down with him to formulate weekly study time-tables based on the dates of the IBs or GCEs. Your child will feel more confident and assured when there is a plan, a structure and routine in place to prepare for the exams.

Here’s a sample plan (click on the image for an expanded view):


Allocate at least two hours for each subject study session. Guide him to tackle tougher topics at the start of each session as that is when he would be most mentally alert. He can also set specific targets. For example, revise Topics One to Three or do a practice paper. Remind your teen to adhere strictly to the schedule, and to not to procrastinate.

3) Create a Revision Strategy

Everyone has a different learning style preference. Some are visual learners, hence using tools such as mind maps works best for them. Others are read-write or audio learners. They like to read out loud or make notes. Kinesthetic learners absorb information when pacing to-and-fro or gesturing with their hands. Some are social learners who need a group to thrive.

Determine what works most effectively for your teen.

Get your teen to use guidebooks which present key theories in a summarised form. It is important to comprehend the concepts instead of memorising chunks of information ‘by heart’. Do not ‘spot questions’*; rather, advise your teen to generate frameworks of ideas and answers to different questions to save time. Do this by indentifying and writing down the key points.

Let your teen take a few mock papers to hone his time-management skills, which is crucial in examinations.

4) Create a Conducive Environment

Ensure that your teen’s study space is large enough to contain all the materials he needs such as notes, stationery and reference books. Keep the room quiet, well lit and ventilated. Interestingly, some find it hard to concentrate when it is too quiet. Allow some non-distracting instrumental music if that is the case.

Teenagers are not always self-disciplined and, if they are on the verge of giving up, may seek various avenues to “escape”. Help your teen by setting boundaries to reduce the chances of being distracted. The play of computer games should be completely banished temporarily or strictly controlled. Limit Internet access on a ‘need-to-use’ basis or allow timed Internet use as a reward for studying conscientiously.

5) Relaxation & Exercise, Health & Well-being

Factor in relaxation breaks for your teen after each three-hour period of prolonged studying to de-stress and avoid burnout. Try stretching exercises, jogging around the block or a quick shower.

It is important is to provide regular, nutritious, balanced meals with carbohydrates, protein, and lots of fruits and vegetables. See that your teen drinks plenty of water and has enough rest every day. This beats having to ingest some weird-tasting essence of chicken or fish brain herbal tonic-cum-energy drink –folk rituals that generations of loving Mums have sworn by.

6) Motivation

By all means go ahead and promise your child a treat, a trip or a gadget should he attain good grades. Do not underestimate the power of reward. Did someone say iPad?

Motivation can also be intangible: you can share some good videos, inspiring stories or just a motivational poster with positive words and visually stimulating imagery. Send your teen a text message on the mobile phone during your lunch hour at work. It will do wonders for his motivation.


Dads, when you have done all you can to help your teen face the big one, the pride and satisfaction of having played a coaching or mentoring role if he aces his finals, will be doubled.

But whatever the outcome, you will at least be able to sleep just a little bit more soundly at night.

*To guess the type of questions that will appear in an examination paper

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 04-10-2011.


Categories: 5 Dads of Teens, Ages and Stages

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