Is my child experiencing exam stress?

Many young people experience feelings of being under pressure when exam time comes around. This is normally experienced during revision periods or before the exams start and although a good amount of pressure can be motivating, the continuous pressure over long periods of time can be stressful and difficult to deal with.

Symptoms of exam stress include:

  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Not participating in the activities they enjoy
  • Negative self-talk
  • Difficulty sleeping or getting up
  • Negative habits such as nail biting and fidgeting
  • Having a racing heart or complaining about nausea
  • Confusion, indecisiveness and the feeling of having their minds go blank during an exam
  • Spending too much time on social media (as an escape)

While these signs are similar to a typical teenager, you will notice an elevation of the symptoms.  Pay attention to your child(ren)

How can I help my child cope with exam stress?

Communicating with your child about the amount of stress he/she is experiencing is very important as this will allow you to gauge what your child’s needs are and will make them feel supported through this stressful time.

  • Encourage your child to go to bed at a reasonable time and to make time for the activities he/she enjoys.
  • Plan their study schedule leading up to exams.  This is not a skill every school teaches their students. Talk about the exam schedule and help in setting up a study calendar including a clear plan of what he/she wants to cover in each study session.
  • Remind your child to take breaks between long periods of studying to move around and give his/her mind a break. Study breaks should take place +/- every 40 minutes.
  • Encourage your child to set goals for their exams – having a clear goal is motivating.
  • Be supportive and more understanding of outbursts.  Remember, children and teens have less coping skills than adults.  They are still learning.
  • Be calm, positive and reassuring during this time.

After each exam, take time to talk to your child about how they feel they have done – allow them to talk while you listen.  It is important to encourage them to not dwell on their mistakes and to take some time out before they start studying for the next exam.

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