22 Oct Supporting your child through exam stress: Hints and Tips
As if everyday life isn’t stressful enough, exams are just yet another stressor that our young adults can face. In among social media, fashion trends and school pressures, exams can really add to the mental load.
According to ReachOut, over two-thirds of young people are now experiencing “worrying levels” of exam stress. A national survey of 1000 young people aged between 14 and 25 revealed those experiencing worrying levels of exam stress had increased from 51.2 per cent in 2017 to 65.1 per cent in 2018.
To clarify this even further, that is more than half of our children who are classed to be at “worrying levels” of stress.
As parent we can sometimes feel completely helpless, not least because more times than not we can’t support the learning outcomes, but also because we see our child trying to cope with this additional anxiety.
We wanted to put together our top tips on how you can support your child successfully navigate exam stress.
How you can help your child overcome exam stress?
Keep the body happy and healthy
One of the key actions that you will have complete control over is keeping your child’s body healthy. This can include providing nutritious meals, ensuring your child is hydrated and even getting your children outdoors for a little exercise.
Exercise is an important part of improving brain function.
A recent Harvard article has stated that “researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”
Cooking your child’s favourite meal can also be a great way to help reward and provide them with a sense of achievement and success, as well as keep their energy levels up.
Provide moral and functional support
As a parent we can help greatly by providing a constant source of positive support and encouragement. You may often hear – “I can’t do this” or “I’m going to fail” – it’s at this stage where we have settle the nerves and help normalise stress.
Remind them that stress is perfectly normal and is what helps us perform as human beings – if we were never stressed, we would be an exception!
It is perfectly understandable that children try to compare themselves to others, however we must focus on efforts on making them understand that we are all individuals and learn in different ways. Remind them that the right amount of effort will achieve results.
As for functional support – assist by asking them what they have learnt, work through the outcomes they are trying to achieve and offer to plan key revision areas with them.
Discuss techniques to help cope with stress
A great way to help cope with stress is practising mindfulness and this can come in various forms. Mindfulness-based practices have been shown to reduce stress, and make negative thoughts seem less threatening.
A great technique is by using breathing exercises, there is one technique called the ‘four-seven-eight’ that can help centre and calm stress.
It helps by focusing attention on breathing and also tricks the body into feeling more relaxed by reducing an accelerated heart rate.
- exhale deeply through mouth
- take a deep breath through nose for four counts
- hold the breath for seven counts
- exhale through mouth for eight counts
- repeat four to eight times.
Other mindfulness techniques could include using positive mantras such as “I can do this” or “I will be ok”. Your child can repeat to themselves when they start to have negative thoughts about their study achievements.
If you are looking for a more technological approach, ReachOut have provided an excellent list of mobile apps that can help work through stress and promote mindfulness.
Just as exams are a struggle if you do not prepare or review, a family who is underprepared can also struggle greatly during this stressful period. However, as a family, together you can create and implement strategies that can promote calmness if considered early enough.
If you feel that exam stress is overwhelming yourself or your child, we have the expertise to support and have appointments available. Click here to contact us.