Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Can Cuddles Really Beat Exam Stress? Positive Psychology and Seven-Second Hugs Can Help the Whole Family Survive the Stressful Exam Season, Happiness Guru Andy Cope Tells LISA SALMON

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Can Cuddles Really Beat Exam Stress? Positive Psychology and Seven-Second Hugs Can Help the Whole Family Survive the Stressful Exam Season, Happiness Guru Andy Cope Tells LISA SALMON

Article excerpt

AS THE summer exam season approaches, parents might think their primary role is to keep their teenagers well-fed and rested.

But as well as such practical help, positive psychology and emotional support is a key part of keeping the whole household calm and stress-free during the exam period, says happiness expert Andy Cope.

Andy, who studied for a PhD on the science of happiness and positive psychology, and has written a series of books on the Art of Being Brilliant, is offering parents tips on how to make teens feel more positive about themselves and their exam prowess. "As we enter the silly season, when kids get stressed about exams, teachers get stressed about kids not living up to expectations and parents get stressed trying not to nag too much about revision, it's important to stay calm and positive," he points out.

He promises the following tips can help the whole family sail through the exam period: THE 8:1 RATIO AN attitude that equates success with hard work can lead to nagging, punishment and pointing out what's wrong, says Andy. As a result, kids learn to stick to what they know to be safe and to a fixed mindset - "I'm rubbish at maths. I'll never be able to learn it".

But Andy says positive reinforcement can avoid such a mindset. "One of the most effective things a teacher or parent can do is use a positivity/negativity ratio of about 8:1," he advises.

"It may seem a lot and it can be difficult to get it right, but catch your child doing things well. Notice the little things and tell them. And mean it."

CELEBRATE BETTER PARENTS need to be "active constructive", says Andy, by celebrating success with genuine enthusiasm.

"I'm not suggesting over-the-top punching the air for every smidgeon of good news, but a raising of levels of enthusiasm.

"Your active constructive response means they know you're proud. The result is that everyone feels great and your child will want to repeat that behaviour."

PRAISE EFFORT RATHER THAN TALENT POSITIVE psychology advice is that if your child accomplishes something, don't say, "Well done, you're a genius", but rather "You put the effort in and got the reward".

NEVER PAY FOR EXAM RESULTS ANDY acknowledges it's tempting to give cash for results, but warns: "You're effectively saying study is horrible and you appreciate your child will only do it for money.

"You're teaching them that learning is a chore."

He suggests parents should instead suggest a family day out as a reward for hard work.

THE SEVEN-SECOND HUG THE average hug lasts just over two seconds, says Andy, but if you hang on for a full seven seconds, "oodles of nice warm chemicals flow around both bodies and the love is transferred. …

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