Managing exam stress – six simple tips to help support your teen

Exam time can be tough. The pressure to do well can often lead students to feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. They may experience a fear of failing or performance anxiety. This is a lot for a teen to manage and for many, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

According to mental health service ReachOut, “A bit of stress for a short period of time can be productive as it can motivate you to perform at your best. But when it starts to get in the way of your teen being able to study, that’s when you might need to offer some extra support.”

Here are six simple tips to help support your teen during exams:

1. Create an inviting study space

Students need a comfortable study space at home that is free from distractions. Give them the freedom to make the space their own, but encourage them to keep it organised and free from clutter. A clear space supports a clear mind

2. Discuss effective study tips

Focus on quality study rather than quantity. Sitting at a desk for hours is not condusive to effective studying. Encourage teens to keep study sessions short, take regular breaks and limit distractions. Ensure they leave their phone in another room and silence emails and social media.

3. Make study breaks enjoyable!

Breaks spent scrolling social media or watching TV can be mentally draining and reduce motivation. Encourage teens to get some fresh air instead – share a snack with them outside in the sun, go for a walk or encourage them to spend time with a pet. Getting outdoors and being active is a great way to clear the mind, maintain focus and boost energy.  

4. Encourage a healthy diet and sleep routine

A healthy, well-balanced diet will keep your teen nourished for optimum physical and mental performance. Urge them to limit caffeine and junk food, avoid energy drinks and stay hydrated. A good night’s sleep is also essential during exam periods.

5. Manage expectations – yours and theirs

To help your teen manage exam stress, it’s important to understand the extent of pressure they may be feeling. Discussing the future and normalising the possibility of failure may relieve stress and anxiety.

6. Identify warning signs

How can you tell if your child needs extra support? According to KidsHelpLine, signs of stress could include:

  • Irritability, moodiness, anger, crying or distress
  • Nausea, sweating, chest pain
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • Not wanting to do things they normally enjoy
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

If you’re concerned that your teen is struggling to cope, seek support together. Resources include:

  • Talking to the class teacher. Feedback from previous tests and tips on exam preparation can reduce feelings of overwhelm and help students feel more prepared.
  • Encourage your teen to talk to a GP or school counsellor.
  • Seek support over the phone or online at KidsHelpLine or Headspace.

If your child is feeling particularly anxious around exam time, read our blog on five simple checks for your child’s wellbeing.

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