Leaving Cert Mamma – Taking care of yourself



The Leaving Certificate period is definitely a tense time, no doubt about it. Its stressful and tense for those that are sitting the exam as well as for those who are supporting them. Tensions rise and tempers fray. The biggest challenge that I have found throughout the run up to the Leaving Certificate has been to what extent I am going to sit back and let my son make his own decisions and to what extent I am going to wade in and say “uh uh that s not the way things are gonna be”. In the back of your mind you are thinking about the immense disappointment that awaits if things turn out so much more badly than they anticipated (and the associated grief and hassle for the rest of the family of course), but on the other hand you know you have to trust them to make their own decisions and own the consequences. I found this particularly hard. I worked in academia and trained people on passing exams. I used to set final university exams and I know how they need to be answered and revised for.

Investing in Trust

The hard task of parenting here is to invest in trust. To trust that your child is anchored to the wisdom of the Universe and that they are evolving in exactly the way that they need to. The task here is to curb your rescuing tendencies! Its hard!

Investing in Yourself


As a parent you will be tested, you will be asked to produce things at the last minute, you will be asked to make unusual things to eat at odd times, to drive to far flung shops and you that will be the butt of their frustration their anger and their disappointment. The key here is to find a harmonious way of engaging with this and not allowing your tension to overflow and unbalance them. The best way to do this is to invest in yourself. To build a strong foundation from which you can nourish and support your young person.


Finding your support during the Leaving Cert as a parent


Different people will do this in different ways, whether its coffee with a friend, whether it s a run on the beach or a yoga class or maybe its a treatment such as acupuncture or osteopathy or a massage or perhaps its a treat to show that you are caring for and valuing yourself. In order to support others you must be in a position to support yourself. So if your child is doing the leaving cert find a way to support yourself. I found that my child’s behaviour changed due to the pressure of the Leaving Cert. It started to change during the intense time of the orals and practical exams in March and April which were also times that he had to attend for the interviews and auditions associated with restricted courses. I found myself parked on  Sandymount Strand one afternoon having what can only be described as a panic attack and I realised that there was no one there to talk to and no one else whose business this was aside from me. It was a fairly cathartic moment and I decided that because I could see this experience was going to be incredibly difficult for my son I was going to have to seriously support myself, and I finally took out my phone and made that appointment for the acupuncturist that I had been meaning to make for the last three years. I have budgeted so that I am prioritising my self care over items that I might think I need or want such trips out or meals out or clothes or shoes! But of course clothes shoes and meals out may be the ticket for someone else. There is no one size fits all. just make sure you know what you need and you get it!

12 hours to go to the Leaving Cert 2019

#leavingcertmammaSo we are just 12 hours from the Leaving Certificate now. Today we all received a big email from the school’s exam coordinator detailing all the information you could possibly want to know about the logistics of sitting the Leaving Cert, they include the things everyone knows such as; NO CHEATING as well as unusual things such as no clear water bottles. Not sure if this goes against the school’s no plastic policy or whether there is some bizarre way you can cheat with a water bottle. Or maybe the school anticipates a riot between rival football team supporters in the main exam hall.

No water bottles in the exam


Then there is the instruction about uniform. You may or may not wear your uniform, but if you don’t you must dress appropriately for the occasion. Not sure what appropriate dress code for the Leaving Certificate is and more to the point inappropriate dress code! I d assume evening or beach wear would be definitely out!

Get a good night’s sleep

Then we are facing into the first night of sleep. That night when you know that the next morning the Leaving Certificate awaits you. Everyone says “get a good night’s sleep”. Pretty impossible really for most ids knowing what lies ahead. I have invested in a very large box of chamomille tea and also in a box of lemon verbana and lemon balm tea! I was also lucky enough to have wonderful friends who between them got a herbal mix for supporting a good night sleep to our door. Thank you Dil and Helen!

Tomorrow the adventure starts!

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Exams Completed: 0 Exams Left to go: 11

Subjects Completed: Subjects Left to go: 8

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Leaving Cert Mamma – The run up


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Leaving Cert English

First of all let me be really clear about one thing. I never wanted my son to do the Leaving Certificate (LC). I had hoped he would do the International Baccalaureate (IB). I even placed him in one of the few schools in Ireland that offers that option. But children are children and they want to do what their friends are doing, so here we are on the eve of the Leaving Certificate.

Why did I not want my son to sit the LC? Primarily because of the stress it puts on young people to regurgitate so much rote learned information, secondly because of the limited skill set they acquire by doing the exams and finally because there is no easy option to repeat it which makes the undertaking even more stressful as there is no safety net to fall back on.

Leaving Cert and Stress

It puts an incredible amount of unnecessary stress on young people at a time of their lives when they are already going through enough stress and emotional turmoil thank you very much. All exams are stressful, but the Leaving Certificate comes as an all in one package that requires a lot of rote learning over a wide range of subjects and can only be done in one sitting over a period of just over two weeks. It’s an insane way to assess whether a young person has the required understanding knowledge or skill set to progress further in life. Late puberty is a difficult time for kids, perhaps more so now than before. The pressure that kids are placed under with respect to image and self esteem is intense and is of course fuelled by social media, the last thing most of them need is more stress.

Leaving Cert Repeats

If one of the exams doesn’t pan out as expected, it can’t simply be repeated. The entire  Leaving Certificate has to be repeated. Furthermore, young people cannot do this at school in the same way that they can in other countries and neither can they resit the Leaving Certificate in a few months when all that shallowly learnt knowledge is till fresh in their head. No, they have to wait an entire year and sit all six subjects again. Pure madness and pure stress.

The rationale? Well people might just do two subjects a year over three years and get all H1 s. Yes and so what? Pretty much every other type of learning that we do in life is done piecemeal, so why not this? I am sure that the third level sector could magic up some way of giving bonus points to one sitting if they wanted to; there are a lot of brainy academics there after all. Lets face it, once you are 23 years old the University sector  actually doesn’t even care if you have a Leaving Certificate at all provided you have demonstrated adequate life experience. Meanwhile, if you wanted to enter an Irish University having done your A levels there is no issue with having done one a year if that is what you did. Such warped logic that causes so much stress for young people.

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What skills does the Leaving Cert give us?

The LC as a final graduating school examination is so arduous and so utterly inapplicable or reflective of skills that young adults actually need such as analytical skills, team based approaches and more importantly than anything emotional intelligence. In most other countries young people have to demonstrate continuous understanding of the subjects they are studying, and also have a far greater opportunity to demonstrate individuality and uniqueness and personal opinion. You wouldn’t dare do that in the LC; it might lose you marks!

The Leaving Cert Industry

The Leaving Certificate generates a whole industry around it too. The first of those is the education system itself. Schools vie for top places on the leader board of points acquired in the leaving certificate and parents crave places in those schools because big points means good college places which surely must mean good jobs and successful offspring and successful parenting! Right? Schools with high places on the leader board focus a lot of 5th and 6th year on testing, on question answering, on rote questions, on predictive question spotting and the like. Navigating the LC becomes more about strategy than understanding knowledge passion or wisdom. Those children with access to the strategies will undoubtedly do better. Bestowing of merit praise and worth on the kids that do well of course duly follow in the schools which have focused so intensely on LC preparation. Kid’s worth and their value to the school are ranked and noted. Some schools offer prizes to high achieving children.

Next the vast array of books and websites and guides that help you add finesse to your strategy. Parents anxious to support their children go ahead and buy these. I swore I never would, but of course I did. I, like any other parent would do anything to help my child through this gruesome rite of passage. Finally, of course the grinds. Again parents seeing the anxiety that the LC is provoking within their children opt for this. Some parents feel that their children are just not receiving enough guidance in school to navigate the exams. God forbid they were only receiving an education. So there are all year courses, Christmas courses, Mid term courses, Easter Courses and even crash courses. Again I swore I would never engage with this industry, but I did. My son needed help, and I turned to the structure of these courses in the holidays to try to keep some sense of momentum going. Its been a holy hell.

Then of course there is the sub industry of getting assessments. Validated assessments for a wide variety of physical and emotional conditions can change the way you might sit your exams which can be very helpful for some kids and can shave a large percentage of points off University requirements. The problem is that the Public School Intervention teams can’t cope with the number of assessments they are expected to approve and sign off on, so parents are obliged to go privately. I drew the line here. Whilst its obvious my son has challenges in processing some directions and understanding instructions or comprehensions, something identified in primary school, I didn’t pursue it with formal assessments. He tells me half his class have exemptions and exclusions and special dispensations and are on the DARE program for University entry, so there is definitely a thriving industry filling in the gap that the public system cant cope with.

Leaving Cert and Self esteem

Undertaking the LC stratifies kids into groups of those who will be successful (referred to I believe as 600 pointers or 500 pointers), to those who wont be as successful. The children who achieve well below the average for the school are rarely referred to with pride in any annual report. They are there to fill the register. The stodgy carb filler in the Sunday Lunch. Don’t tell me for one second that kids aren’t aware of this stratifying and judgment of them as human beings. It can’t be good for their mental and emotional health and it isn’t something that a focus on mental well being for a day, or a week or a month in school is going to easily lighten or shift.

All kids subject to that regime end up viewing their worth, or a part of their worth in these exam results. That is not exactly healthy. It applies equally to those kids that are high exam achievers and to those that are low exam achievers. Its part of our education system that we encourage our youth to value themselves on external achievement rather than on internal understanding stability and self worth. Any self help book you pick up will emphatically state that the route  to self esteem does not come from external validation and external achievements. Self esteem comes from connecting with yourself, and  from realising your value from the inside not from the outside in, yet on we go with the Leaving Cert despite the emotional dangers it places on children. Needless to say, this is in addition to the emotional stress of actually sitting the exams, which for some children is extreme.The lead up is incredibly stressful and some kids just are unable to cope. Many children I know a year ahead of my son went to counselling because they were unable to cope, some children I know dropped out of school altogether because they couldn’t face the stress. It’s not surprising to hear some parents I know going as far as to call it state sanctioned child abuse.

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Leaving Certificate results

Leaving cert and higher education

So our kids will go through all this in the next three weeks. And the end game? When its all done and dusted and most of them arrive in a 3rd level course. What then?

For 10 years I lectured in Trinity College, University of Dublin in an Associate Professor’s position and I saw the first year student entrants that the Leaving Certificate produced. The students had all done well in the LC else they wouldn’t have gotten to Trinity, but the capacity for insight, for analysis and for independent thinking was disappointing and lagged significantly behind students that had done the A level exams in the UK. I would regularly get asked if they could use their LC crib notes or if I would be providing revision notes. Answer no and no. The first months of their university career was really about de-schooling them from spoon feeding, from shallow learning and rote answers! I am not saying that some of the facts they learnt were of no use, just that the way those facts were learnt did not serve them well in further education where the emphasis is on analytical thinking, not mindless regurgitation.

Leaving cert and shallow learning

Shallow learners have to become deep learners and that can be very hard for many students as the LC does not really expose our students to that. There is a very limited focus on deep learning, instead the focus is on shallow learning and beating the system to gain points eg “rewrite the maths question and you will get a point”. Then of course there is the memory game aspect of it. The exam favours the short term shallow learning of the facts re-expressed in a way that will maximise marks. The result: a nation of shallow learners all of whom hated their Leaving Cert experience, and many of whom still have nightmares about the stress of it years later during those first few weeks of June!

To all those parents supporting their children in the Leaving Certificate Exams over the next few weeks, I hope that you will be supporting yourselves. More on that in my next blog. Good luck to all those facing into their first exam. Nothing else in life will be as hard or ask so much of you.

#LeavingCertificate #LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #StateExams #LCstudent #LeavingCertParents

Exams Completed: 0 Exams Left to go: 11

Subjects Completed: 0 Subjects Left to go: 8

Homeopathy to support labour and birth

Childbirth preparation in Dublin: Using Homeopathy

Childbirth preparation in Dublin: Using homeopathy will help you prepare for the many emotional and physical symptoms of early and established labour. Homeopathic remedies and knowing how to use them are an extremely helpful addition to any birth bag, whether you are going to have your baby in hospital or at home and whether you are planning a normal birth without interventions, a birth with pharmacological pain relief or a caesarean birth. To book click here.

How can homeopathy help in childbirth?

Homeopathy helps with the many emotional symptoms of labour, such as anxiety, fear and the feeling of being overwhelmed. These symptoms arise irrespective of what type of birth you are planning and can often arise even with established childbirth preparation techniques you have been learning. Homeopathy enables you to feel more balanced and therefore optimises your focus and your use of visualisations and breathing.

This course is primarily geared towards pregnant people and their partners. The course will look at the main homeopathic remedies that are helpful in labour birth and beyond and will cover the following topics amongst others:

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Homeopathy and symptoms during labour

1. When the labour starts going very quickly and its hard to stay focused and catch your breath
2. When you feel completely exhausted because the labour has been long
3. When you feel anxious or frightened
4. When you feel overwhelmed or distressed
5. When you have the symptoms of a back labour

To book click here

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Homeopathy and Symptoms after the birth (postnatally).

1. Helping with the symptoms of bruising
2. Helping with the symptoms of tears, grazes, cuts and scars
3. Helping with the symptoms of mastitis

To book click here

#krysia #homeaopthy #dubldoula

How do I use homeopathic remedies during labour and birth?

We will look at potency (how strong should a remedy be), dosage (how should it be given?) and repeats (how often should it be repeated within a certain time span).

At the end of the course you will have a basic idea of how homeopathy supports women during this intense time of transition and also what remedies match which symptoms.

You will also have an idea of how to use a basic homeopathic birth kit, and we will talk a bit about creating your own birth and postpartum kit. There is an online support tool for the course so participants will be able to refer to this to refresh their memories after the course is over!

Homeopathy to support labour and birth

For more information and to book click here, or pop me an email at hello@krysia.ie

This service is also available on a one to one as a private session if you can’t make the course. More details here

#dublindoula #krysia #krysialynch


#krysia #dublindoula #krysialynchAs a new mother, everything is different and new. The world might look the same, but yet everything is different. How we cope with the transformation to motherhood depends on our expectation of how it will be.

I know that when I was pregnant with my first baby and thought about how it would be after he was born, I thought that I would be struggling to find things to do in order to fill the time in between his breastfeeds.

HA HA HA! How different reality was! My little bundle of joy never really wanted to be put down. He seemed to be constantly hungry in those early days, and whilst I just kept feeding him I was worried whether he was OK and if I was doing it right. The answer was yes to both, but I have never forgotten the anxiety exhaustion and worry that I felt.

TIP 1: Know what is normal

#dublindoula #kryisalynchWhat helped me was attending my first La Leche League meeting. Here everything I had been feeling was normalised. I realised that this is what every breastfeeding mother feels and so I felt OK.

TIP 2: Find the support you need. Find your tribe. This can change as your mothering changes, and you can have several tribes at anyone time!

Early mothering is primarily about managing expectations. Becoming a mother is a transformative experience. Allow the transformation to happen whist keeping yourself healthy. Enjoying health involves getting adequate nutrition and rest as well as nourishing your emotional and mental health. It often involves not doing too much and not taking too much on. This can be hard for those of us who are “doers” and who enjoy being “in control” and “active”.

TIP 3: Never stand if you can sit, never sit if you can lie down and never ever volunteer to do anything someone else can do

Post birth our bodies change. Pregnancy and birth and our physical and emotional experiences following birth can take their toll. If our experiences are still bothering us either emotionally or physically then they can take us away from our primary activity; nourishing ourselves and our babies as a dyad. If you continue to have pain after c birth or an episiotomy or pain on breastfeeding, seek support either from your HCP or a lactation consultant.

Tiredness is a normal hallmark of parenting, but excessive tiredness needs extra support. 17% of mothers develop pregnancy induced hypothyroidism and the primary symptom is excessive tiredness. Some mothers will have been borderline anaemic during pregnancy and this again can affect energry levels So do get your gp to run a blood test if you feel over tired to check for these conditions.

TIP 4: Address and physical issues you have from the birth with your GP

#dublindoula #krysia #krysialynch18 % of women in Ireland will experience low mood after birth. Exercise, company, support, rest, reasonable expectations, good food and breastfeeding can play a part in alleviating low mood. If you feel your mental health is at risk or if symptoms  persist go see your GP as some women do well on medication.

Emotional responses to birth can also vary dramatically and sometimes they too can take their toll. If you feel emotionally unwell, keep running over the birth experience or get flash backs, seek support. If you feel that your birth experience was not what it should have been then go to “HSE Have Your Say” or go to AIMSIreland for support.

TIP 5: Do not be afraid to seek support for your emotional and mental well being. 1/5 women in Ireland feel emotionally unbalanced after birth.

avocado mangoEat well. That means a balanced diet with a good mix of vegetables, fruits, nuts seeds oils grains and vegetable and animal protein. You dont need to follow a particular diet, but try to make sure that your food is as close to its natural state as possible. In addition to eating enough make sure you drink enough. Try to avoid to many caffeine drinks and drink a lite of water a day plus other liquids.

basket of vegKnow your superfoods and key vitamins and what foods contain them. Some vitamins are free and can be obtained by just walking outside without a hat on such as Vitamin D. All fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C which helps your immune system stay healthy. A good way to keep up your supply of Vitamin C is to prepare smoothies. Many smoothie makers now come with a cup that you can carry around with you.

TIP 6: Carry a healthy snack with you in your pocket. Examples include a tangerine, a packet of cranberries, a pack of almonds, a banana

Organising daily life and house work can be a challenge for a new mother. Some mothers are in a fortunate position to be able to get help with cooking or with cleaning. If such help is available to you TAKE IT. If such help is not available to you lower your expectations, but also consider ways to make things less stressful.

TIP 7: Consider on line shopping . . . for everything!

basket of veg 2If you are cooking for yourself and your partner, close your eyes and wonder is there any way you dont have to! Would any of your friends who are looking for a baby gift for you consider buying you a series of ready made delivered gourmet meals? Would your partner consider doing some of the cooking? Could you eat more raw food that doesnt require cooking; just chopping eg humous and raw vegetable dippers? If you have to cook, try to cook as you go through your day. Place the various ingredients by your chopping board as you see them in the fridge and then when dinner time comes the WHOLE task wont seem so onerous.

TIP 8: Plan your meals for the coming week.

#dublindoula #krysia #kryisalynchGetting enough sleep can be difficult with a new baby. In general new mothers are told to rest when their baby rests. This can be difficult when there are so many things to do, or when you think there are so many things to do and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time! Even if you don’t sleep when your baby does, its good to put your feet up. You can try and create a relaxing ambience with scents such as lavender, or soft relaxing music. Many breastfeeding mothers also find it helpful to sleep with their baby during the night. If you are going to do this make sure you practise “safe sleep seven“.

Aside from rest, its also important to get some fresh air and exercise. A walk in the park, by the sea or in the woods can revitalise us and energise us as well as providing our bodies with a bit of exercise. If you walk with your baby in a sling you are also doing weight bearing exercise which is important for future bone health. Another nice way to get exercise is to go swimming with your baby. Check out mother and baby swims in your local swimming pool.

TIP 9: Sleep or rest when your baby rests, but try to get in one walk a day.

#dublindoula #krysia #krysialynchThere is often a lot of pressure in today’s society to put the baby down. However, new parenting is a lot easier if you pick the baby up and carry him or her. Sometimes you will need to carry your baby in your arms, but mostly its easier to carry your baby in a sling. There are literally thousands of slings available and you can get advice on slings and how to use them from Baby Wearing Ireland.

TIP 10. Get a sling

Finally. Enjoy your baby. This time doesn’t come again.

This blog is based on a talk I gave to new mothers for her.ie