Shaftesbury Students Offered Support In Reducing Exam Stress

The school exam period can be a testing time for teenagers. That’s why a Shaftesbury based children’s counsellor is offering her ‘less stress toolkit’ at a two hour workshop on Wednesday 21st November.

Jane Pyrgos will share useful tips on coping with exam pressure with students in Years 10 to 13, now that their mocks are on the horizon. “It’s really targeted at the teenagers who are building up to GCSEs and A-level exams. This is the time of year when things can start to get a little more tense,” said Jane. “If I could get a group of teenagers who are struggling with anxiety a little bit, then there is lots we can do to help them keep on track, in terms of organising their lives around some revision, prioritisation, methods for avoiding procrastination and some first-aid strategies to reduce stress when they are about to go into an exam.”

Jane hopes that her sessions will help pupils perform better under exam pressure. “It will involve some organisational tools, some relaxation tools and some priorities for them to try out.”

Jane Pyrgos

If you’re reading this and wondering why this support is needed – because you were expected to just get on with revision – then Jane says today’s teenagers have many more pressures to deal with. “The whole nature of childhood has changed significantly. The internet and social media has had a profound effect. Everything is immediate. Failures are hugely public as well as your successes. The world is an increasingly competitive arena. We know that as adults, professionally. Our children see that and there’s a huge amount of uncertainty for them.”

Jane is taking bookings for her £10 Wednesday workshop now. It’s ‘first come, first served’, because space is limited. “I only work with small groups. There will not be a huge audience. It’s a workshop that is quite interactive. And as it’s just for the teenagers, it’s very teenager friendly,” said Jane. “My focus is on making a safe place with very strong boundaries around it. What is said in the room stays in the room and there is a culture of respect and acceptance for everybody.”

So how did Child Counsellor Jane embark on her career? After completing her degree in Early Childhood Studies, Jane went on to work as a full-time school counsellor in the Asian nation of Brunei. “I trained as a nurse when I left school. I became a school nurse and my work evolved to school management and pastoral care of children. I then began training in counselling, really as part of professional development to support my management role in the school where I was working. I had to have difficult and sensitive conversations with children, their parents and staff. I wanted to understand how to help the children through talking, because it was clear that the children wanted to talk. It was the way to help them feel understood and solve their issues. Once I started, I got hooked,” Jane explained.

Jane feels that the old, ‘children should be seen and not heard’ saying is unhelpful. “It still lingers on in society but there is a much stronger desire to understand children. There are expectations of children that we impose on them, so to tune into their world as they see it and understand it and to be beside them in an empathetic way is really a big jump for many adults.”

Jane soon learned to identify behaviours in young people that may benefit from counselling. “Lots of anxiety, friendship issues, relationship issues amongst families. Sometimes there would be significant life events, like divorce or separation, death or bereavement. These are things that affect us and ‘rock our boats’ as adults. They do the same for children. And yet I feel that children’s feelings are unacknowledged. They often don’t show their feelings in the same way as adults and they are not able to articulate themselves in the way that we do. They can show feelings through behaviours that adults find challenging, both at home or in school.”

As well as the group workshops, Jane says she is available to parents who need help and don’t know where to turn. “I’m trying to reach people who are struggling with their children and to help them support their children, so that they are more resilient and can cope better. We all want to be good parents but to ask for help means making yourself vulnerable. It means that things aren’t going so well and it’s hard to admit.”

Jane accepts that asking for support can be a big step for parents but she promises she won’t question parental abilities. “I’ll do my best to help, not judge,” Jane said.

Jane’s first Heart Smart Therapy session takes place on Wednesday, 21st November at 6.30pm in the Gold Hill Museum’s Garden Room. You can book by calling Jane on 07549 020693 or by emailing heartsmarttherapy@gmail.com. Jane is intending to add more sessions, soon.