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Stress Management for Kids During Exams

Stressed teenager revising for exams over a book

Stress during examinations is no joke, kids from early ages can feel immense pressure in these situations.

Feeling anxious before the big day is a normal feeling that most people go through, there are books written on test anxiety, it’s a real thing!

We may think that stress for teens stems from exam pressure or test anxiety, especially during their A-Level exams or the final two years of the IB diploma. However, as much as this is a very stressful time (I survived IB and have the t-shirt!) even young students starting primary and middle school can experience the same level of stress during simple tests. Parents need to know how to help kids manage their stress during exams and sometimes, its the small things that really matter.

The Simple Things

We don’t need you to revise with us, revision is hard enough without a parent watching us, what we need are the simple things. Let us eat dinner in our bedroom over our laptop, give us a break if we need to listen to music while studying (we can do both) and sometimes we just need to stay up late watching Netflix to chill, give us a break!

The things that mattered the most to me were post-it notes left on the fridge on big exam days, snacks snuck into my room even when I couldn’t think about eating, and the most important thing for parents to know is – just be there. You may think we don’t need you around but we do, more than ever. Just knowing our parents are there (even if we don’t want to talk to you) means so much. Be there when we go off to the exam and be around when we come home. You might only get a one syllable answer but the gesture goes a long way.

Notebook and pencils with motivational quote

How Parents Can Help

Talking. Simply talking to your kids before a big test or assignment can do wonders. Reassuring them that no matter what score appears on the test sheet can go a long way to reassuring them, and can sometimes even motivate them. For any student regardless of their age and the importance of the exam or test, guarantee us our self esteem, give us the security that you will always be there to comfort us if we fail or to congratulate us on our achievements. Having this conversation with your studious superstars can calm their nerves and put them in a positive mindset which hopefully allows them to perform to the best of their ability. Have conversations and even explain stressful times you’ve experienced before when you were in school, or situations you have faced as an adult. This can make kids feel less alone during stressful periods.

For a more detailed article on how parents can help with their kids’ stress management click here

How to Recognise ‘Exam Stress’

How do we distinguish the difference between exam ‘stress’ and, well stress in general? To be frank, they are both the same; exam stress is situational, when your stress levels are increased during exam season. Stress in general is prominent during the school year from the pressure of assessments, teachers and parental expectations but it differs from exam stress which is a state of heightened anxiety. Here are some obvious signs that your child is going through exam stress.

Some of the most common signs can include tiredness throughout the day, perhaps your kid is skipping meals during examinations or they are unusually secluded to the corner in their bedroom. Luckily, these signs are not difficult to notice with enough attention paid to your kids’ daily routine. If you are noticing these signals the best way to comfort your teens or tweens is simply by talking to them and staying around them to keep an eye on them (even when we scream we want you to leave us alone,) please be our safety belts.

Trying to understand why this is happening is much more effective than getting frustrated that your kid isn’t revising or isn’t taking exams seriously. The pressure on kids to get good grades, a perfect score or entrance into the best universities is massive and we don’t want to let our parents down whatever you may think. Remember what you are going through affects us too, if you’re stressed, we will be stressed too. If we see our parents regulate and manage their emotions successfully it gives us a signal on how to do the same, if we see our parents stressed or fall apart, why wouldn’t we do the same? We need mentors not friends at this time in our lives.

As there are so many symptoms of exam stress, we would have to dedicate a whole blog on ‘How to recognise exam stress’. Luckily, KidsHelpLine has a great, easy to read to article on the signs and techniques to overcome examination stress.

Various Coping Techniques

Card with a motivational quote

Hopefully parents are now more equipped and informed on how to comfort a child in a stressful mindset. Now let’s move on to how kids can perform these stress-management methods themselves. There are multiple ways to help with this and not every technique may work for everyone, but what may not work for one kid, may be the most practical for another.

  • Inhale, Exhale: Breathing exercises can really calm you down, putting you in the right state of mind to ace your exam or study the day before. Just by practicing breathing exercises for 10 minutes a day within a full week teaches your mind and body to mentally prepare for an anticipated stressful situation.
  • Try EFT (tapping): I was introduced to this and learning to tap on various pressure points which control and release anxiety really helped me. When you can feel stress or anxiety rising, try tapping with your fingers on your chest bone or the temples of your forehead. After 5 minutes it’s guaranteed to calm you down.
  •  Back to Basics: Eat, Sleep, Exercise. By following these 3 basic rules your body is at its peak performance. By staying up all night, exhausting yourself by revising is doing you no good. Sometimes its best to set limits on how many hours you study per day. Furthermore, eating 3 complete meals a day will also boost your brain productivity. You’re receiving all the needed nutrients to function. By going back to the basics can help you in the long run.
  • Creating a Plan: Create a timetable and stick to it. By jotting down all your revision plans for the day gives you one less thing to obsess over. Give your brain a break and design your timetable so you get into the habit of following a routine. Your timetable doesn’t have to just involve a full day of studying. Here’s how to create the optimum timetable for you. Click here.
  • Ask for Help: Whether it’s a teacher, friend or parent. Don’t be afraid to ask for support, going through stressful times alone isn’t pleasant. Seek comfort in others, the emotional benefits of support from others around you can improve your confidence greatly. If you can ask for help, you can definitely smash the exam.
  • Believe in Yourself: its exam season and its nerve-racking but think about how far you’ve come. From the first day of the class where you may not have known a single thing about the subject and now, you’ve got pages filled with information you’ve memorised and believe you’re an expert!

You’ve got this, if I can survive exam season so can you!

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