How to help your teens manage exam stress

How to help your teens manage exam stress

If your son or daughter is sitting GCSE or A-Level exams this summer, I would imagine that the stress levels are on the rise.  Before the Easter holidays, the exams still seem like something in the dim and distant future.  After the Easter holidays and as we head into May, suddenly they are a matter of days away with many students taking their language speaking exams over the next couple of weeks.

It can be an overwhelming time, even for the calmest, laid-back kids. They feel the pressure of what happens after the exams, they don’t want to let themselves or their parents down and whichever exams they are taking, they have a big impact on what comes next. Some kids work themselves into such a frenzy that they can make themselves ill and this is a time when we really need to teach them the importance of self-care as they will be in a far better position to succeed in their exams if they are fit and healthy.

As parents, this can be a stressful time for us too.  We want to support our kids as much as we can and the good news is that there is a lot we can do to help ease the pressure and give them the best possible chance of staying stress-free and doing their very best in their exams.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

What I mean by that is that it is okay to let some things slide during exam time. If they aren’t doing their chores, making their beds or they leave things lying around on the floor, whilst it is annoying, during exam times it is better to let it go.  Try and be more flexible during the few weeks before and during exams and then you can get back to a normal routine afterwards when the pressure is off.

How to help your teens manage exam stress

It’s good to talk

Talk to them about their exams.  Tell them about your own experiences, let them know that everyone gets stressed and anxious about exams and let them know that how they are feeling is completely normal.  Encourage them to tell you if there is a subject in particular that they are worried about and talk through possible solutions such as helping with revision or speaking to their teacher.

If you find face to face talking doesn’t walk, we find going for a walk helps as there is something about walking that helps our kids to open up and chat, it is less confrontational than chatting face to face.

During exams, take some time each day to check in and see how they are feeling.  Give them tips on managing anxiety during exams such as taking a few minutes to breathe and focus if they start to panic.

Support them with their revision

We are all busy and it is easy sometimes, especially when your kids are independent, to forget that they might need a little help.  Spend some time talking to them about their revision, if they haven’t done it already, encourage them to set up an exam revision timetable so they can structure revision time for each subject.  Offer to help where you can, test them or get them to explain certain things to you, maybe even go over a past paper with them, it all helps.

How to help your teens manage exam stress. Encourage them to revise with friends as revision can be a lonely process

If they don’t want you to help them, maybe encourage them to revise with friends.  Revision can be a lonely process and working with someone who is studying the same things can be really useful and a great stress-reliever at the same time.

Encourage healthy living

Okay, I admit that once they have got to this stage, it is hard to control what they are eating when they are out and about, but when they are at home, you can.  Make sure they are getting a balanced diet, lots of fruit and vegetables, drinking lots of water and especially on exam days, send them off with a good breakfast so that they will be able to concentrate and get through the morning without feeling hungry.

How to help your teens manage exam stress. Encourage healthy eating and make sure they have a good breakfast on the morning of exams

Advise them to avoid eating junk food and drinks containing high levels of caffeine.  It is all too easy to turn to these to try and help get us through the tough times, but in reality, these things will only lead to mood swings, energy lows and general irritability.

It might also be a good idea to give their immune systems a boost to try and ward off viruses, which they are more likely to catch when they are feeling tired and run down.  I swear by Sambucol which was recommended to me by a friend a couple of years ago when we all seemed to be going down with every illness going around.  We all use Sambucol as it tastes great and the whole family can take it and I can honestly say that since starting to take it, there have been fewer colds and bugs in the house.

It is a food supplement containing black elderberry, packed full of antioxidants and natural goodness which is proven to help support the immune system and the Immuno Forte range is amazing as it contains both zinc and vitamin C. The Immuno Forte range is suitable for the whole family. The liquid is recommended for children 3+ and the capsules are suitable for children and adults from the age of 12. There is even a liquid suitable for little ones aged one and over.  My husband and I favour the capsules as they are quick and easy to take after a meal.  The children all prefer the liquid.

 

How to help your teens manage exam stress - adding food supplements to their diet such as Sambucol can help give their immune systems a much needed boost

Remind them of the importance of regular exercise.  It will help reduce stress, allow them to clear their minds and get some perspective and of course, it is the key to getting a good night’s sleep, especially if they have had their heads stuck in books all day.

Ensure that they have some downtime

All work and no play is not a good thing.  Whilst mad parties and nights out with friends probably aren’t the best ideas when it is exam time, they do need some downtime.

Encourage them to take some time out to relax, go out for walks, do some exercise, spend time with friends or just chill out.  Their brains need a break in between studying and it will make their revision more effective.

Tell them to avoid cramming

We have all done it, it is a natural reaction to try and cram in as much last-minute information as we can before an exam but it doesn’t work. Our memories don’t work that way. Our short-term memory can only hold so much information and whilst it might feel like last minute cramming works, it will only give you some of the information you need.

Remind them of the importance of regular exercise.  It will help reduce stress, allow them to clear their minds and get some perspective and of course, it is the key to getting a good night’s sleep, especially if they have had their heads stuck in books all day.

Get them into good sleep habits

This one is harder than it sounds, I know that from personal experience.  Getting teens to go to bed at a reasonable hour is a constant battle and one that they seem determined to fight.  As adults, we know that as teens with all of the physical and hormonal changes going on, they actually need more sleep.  As teens, they think they know best and see going to bed early as some sort of punishment.  Try and find a middle ground.  Show them some articles explaining why sleep is so important, if they won’t listen to you, they might take it from someone else. The NHS Choices website outlines how much sleep children up to the age of 16 actually need.

Give them a light at the end of the tunnel

Rewards is a tricky one when it comes to exams.  I know lots of parents who offer monetary rewards for certain grades, or for numbers of passes.  I am going to honest and say that this isn’t something I do but I do think that it is a nice idea to offer a treat or reward at the end of exams as they deserve it.

Maybe offer a day out with mates, a sleepover, a theme park trip or short break away? It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but something that they can plan to do and look forward to at the end of their hard work. It also serves as a reminder that there is life after exams.

Failing isn’t the end of the world

One of my favourite quotes (so much so that it is up in our kitchen) is “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss if you don’t even try.” I love this quote. However, one of the things that I often say to my kids is that whatever happens, there are always other options.  Try your best, do what you can and if it doesn’t work out, you can try something else.  Yes, exams are important and you should always try hard and if it doesn’t go to plan, it isn’t the end of the world. Exams can be retaken or there are lots of different college courses that might be suitable.

 

This post was written in association with Sambucol. Photos courtesy of Unsplash

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12 Comments

  1. May 14, 2018 / 2:40 pm

    Some very wise words here! It is such an intense time and there is so much pressure to succeed and perform on the day and so many ‘what ifs’ if things don’t go quite to plan. I find another good place to talk to the kids is in the car. There’s far less distractions and no possibility of escape, so they often relax and chat more.

  2. May 14, 2018 / 5:00 pm

    Some really great advice here. Talking is absolute key to getting them through this.

  3. May 14, 2018 / 6:27 pm

    Failing definitely isn’t the end of the world and ensuring kids get enough sleep and healthy food is good. Great tips x

  4. May 14, 2018 / 7:00 pm

    Fantastic tips – it takes me back to the stress and worry of exam periods. Luckily they’re over pretty quickly and with your tips hopefully stress will be reduced for many 🙂

  5. May 14, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    I know all too stressful it can be to prep for exam stress so I agree that it is important to not sweat the small stuff and recognize that all they need during this time is support. It is important to be mindful of the stress that they are under.

  6. May 14, 2018 / 9:29 pm

    My son is independent and we have just left him alone to do his revision, but maybe we should have encouraged him to allow us to help a bit more. Great tips

  7. May 14, 2018 / 9:31 pm

    Great tips! My eldest is 14 so wont be long until his GCSE’s really! He gets so stressed!

  8. May 15, 2018 / 2:27 pm

    Some very wise words here. We are preparing for A-Levels this year and the pressure is starting to take its toll now

  9. May 15, 2018 / 4:10 pm

    A post filled to the brim with wisdom! I can remember growing up & not being able to go to my parents for comfort during exam season as it wasn’t something they fully understood! This is a gem for parents with children who are going through the worse period of their school lives!

  10. May 16, 2018 / 9:40 am

    They’re all great tips. Especially the talking about the exams, downtime and revising with friends. I found all of these very helpful when I was getting ready for my big school exams. Revising alone was lonely and with friends I could be quizzed about things or discuss things with them that helped massively. I do hope I can be helpful to my son when he grows up and faces exams as I’ve done A LOT of exams in my time.

  11. May 16, 2018 / 11:17 am

    great advice, we are a few years away from exams thankfully but it does worry me slightly the pressure put on children. My eldest si autistic so even more worries there.

  12. May 18, 2018 / 12:18 am

    I remember stressing over my a levels, and then all my uni exams. I am glad that it is all over now! I think the most important thing is to have a good plan and sticking to it. it helps to avoid unnecessary panic, lack of sleep and stress. Lovely post! x

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