Exam Stress

As parents the most useful thing we can do to help our children deal with exam stress is to keep calm and manage our own stress because stress is catching.   It may not feel like it but the reality is that the world will not stop turning if these exams don’t go according to plan and we are bigger than the certificates we collect, so keep things in perspective and stop stress levels from soaring.

  • Encourage them to imagine themselves in the exam hall, feeling calm, in control and able to do the paper and then finishing feeling successful and happy with their performance.  These walk throughs increase positivity and in the words of Henry Ford, “whether we think we can or we think we can’t we are probably right”.
  • If they are struggling with revision suggest they set an alarm for 15 minutes – we can do anything for 15 minutes and four of those = one hour.
  • Encourage them to be practical – write out the exam timetable so that they revise for the right subject on the right day; if they are worrying that they haven’t done enough revision encourage them to keep going and to focus on the areas they feel more confident about because it is better to do a few things really well than a lot of things badly.
  • Encourage them to get outside and take some vigorous exercise because it is the best way to relieve mental fatigue, restore mental function and increase positive thinking.
  • Don’t nag – it is white noise and unlikely to be helpful.  Instead encourage them by noticing when they are doing the right thing – tell them you know how hard it is to keep going and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
  • Encourage them not to burn the midnight oil the night before an exam as the benefits of knowing a few extra facts is outweighed by the lack of concentration caused by too little sleep.  Much better to read through notes in the morning.
  • The Exam Day Checklist:-
  • do they know where they are going and when
  • do they understand how the seating works
  • do they have the right equipment
  • Encourage themto eat well for energy
  • to drink to avoid dehydration – even mild dehydration has a marked affect on performance
  • to avoid friends who get stressed before exams – it’s catching
  • to read through the paper noting any specific instructions
  • to make a note of how many questions they need to answer
  • to start with a question they feel confident about answering.After an exam is over let them talk it through so that they can close the page on it before moving onto the next one.  Remember they will focus on the bad bits not the good bits so don’t panic.The choices our children make might not be the ones we would make for them and their lives will rarely pan out as we had hoped but it will be their life and their destiny and it will be no less valuable for it.
  • And finally – a thought to carry you through:-

Alicia Drummond is the author of Why Every Teenager Needs a Parrot (available from www.lets-talk.uk.com or Amazon uk), a psychotherapist and mother of teenagers who lives in Sussex and runs the Let’s Talk Teens Workshops for Parents.

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