Exam stress - how can parents help?
Young people and pressure
According to psychologist Dr Anna Colton, all young people are different both in the way they revise and show their stress.
Stress can manifest in many ways. For example, tearfulness, insomnia, a lack of appetite, or eating all the time. Alternatively, young people may show their stress by socialising too much or withdrawing from social activities altogether. To add to this, blind panic, which some young people experience when they are under pressure can result in inactivity - this can often be misinterpreted by parents as laziness.
How can parents help?
Dr Anna Colton's tips for parents and guardians during the exam season.
Reward effort rather than results
What matters is that your young person is achieving their personal potential.
Don’t pressure them
If you have high expectations of your child, they will know that and probably have high expectations for themselves. You don’t need to tell them. Putting on extra pressure is most likely to increase stress which in turn will detract from their work.
Give them regular, balanced meals
Skipping meals or snacking constantly is common but not helpful. A proper meal forces them to take a real break even if only for half an hour.
Help them to create a timetable
An ideal timetable has the day divided into three segments (morning, afternoon, evening). No more than two of the three segments should be taken by work each day.
Just be there for your child
Just being there should your child need you is enough. They’ll come to you if they need you.
Recognise if they are really struggling
If your child is really struggling, they may need additional help. This could mean a trip to the GP or help finding someone else to assist them with topics with which they’re struggling.
Dr Colton's advice on finding a balance
Finding a balance between work, sleep, social life, and exercise is very important. Helping your child to keep a balance in their life will help them to keep a perspective on exams and will lessen how overwhelmed they feel.
At least one day off per week is essential
Revision and exams can become all-encompassing and reminding your child that there’s more to life is important. They will work much better after a day off.
Encourage your child to have meals or down time
These will provide the opportunity for them to chat to you or family members about whatever they want (not necessarily exams or revision).