How to help my children manage exam stress

Exams can be stressful for kids, but with the right tips and tools they can be managed. Here are a few ways to help your kids through this difficult time.

Exams are a big part of the lives of both children and young people, and they can cause a lot of anxiety. During exam periods, your child is likely to be under pressure, and the stress may get to them. If this happens, it’s helpful to know how you can help your child cope with exam stress and prioritise their wellbeing. 

What are the signs of stress?

Some of the most common signs of stress include a change in sleep patterns, a change in eating habits, an increase in heart rate, an increase in anxious thoughts (such as ‘what if’s and assuming the worst), anger, and restlessness. 

It’s important that you help your child figure out the best way of coping, as prolonged stress and anxiety can negatively affect physical and mental health. However, when you make an effort to look out for the signs of stress in your child, it’ll be much easier to manage them when they start to show.

How can I help my child rest and eat well?

It’s one thing to tell your child they need to sleep and eat, but it’s another thing to get them to actually do it. When they’re stressed, sometimes the last thing they want to do is put their work aside, especially if their stress affects their hunger and sleep levels. However, sleeping and eating are essential for brain function, maintaining good energy levels, and boosting your mood, so your child mustn’t skip these.

Here are some things you can do to encourage your child to rest and nourish their body:

Set a study schedule

If you and your child draw up a study schedule together, you can make sure that they leave time in the day for eating, sleeping, and taking regular breaks. With a schedule, they’ll be able to condense their studying into chunks and ease their stress levels.

Have a consistent bedtime

When your child has a set bedtime, they’ll find it easier to know when to put work down and turn in for the night. They can also plan how much work they can do before they know to stop.

Make sure your child eats 3 meals a day

Your child may be tempted to skip meals in favour of studying. However, it’s important that they eat at regular intervals, so bringing them food or asking them to eat with you is an excellent way to ensure they get the nutrients they need.

What can I do for my child?

It may feel like there’s not much you can do for your child, but don’t feel discouraged. Even though your child has to put in the work for their exams themself, you can still support them from the sidelines. Here are some things you can do to help: 

  • Watch for signs of stress
  • Help them study
  • Teach them a breathing technique (this can be as simple as taking 5 deep breaths when they start to feel overwhelmed)
  • Make sure they have water and snacks 
  • Encourage them to exercise 
  • Be flexible during exams
  • Let them know you’re there for them

By supporting your child and not adding pressure to them, they’ll be able to feel more comfortable whilst they study. Their stress levels may leave you feeling anxious, but try not to overpower their emotions with your own. 

How do I tell my child that it’ll be okay?

Your child may still be stuck in their head and overcome with worry despite your efforts. Reassurances can fall on deaf ears, so you might not know what to do next. However, one of the best things you can do is listen to your child’s worries. 

If your child comes to you about something that’s making them stressed, try to avoid generic advice. Instead, see if you can tackle the issue together. For example, if they tell you that they’re worried about forgetting an answer in an exam paper, work with them to figure out what they can do if their mind goes blank during a test.

On the day of the exam, leave your child with a final reassurance. If they start to panic, remind them that they’ve worked hard and have done what they can. As long as you’re a pillar of support and reassurance, that’s all you can do for them.

Final thoughts from Kami

Many people have to deal with exam stress, from primary school to further education. Learning how to manage this stress will be fantastic for your child’s wellbeing and ensure that they stay happy and healthy during exam time. Although you may be worried, there’s only so much you can do for them. You can build your child up so that they’re ready to tackle whatever exams come their way. When they have stress management techniques they can use, they’ll be prepared for the next time they feel stressed about exams.

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