Manage Your Kid’s Exam Stress!

Yes it is that time of year again! Our poor teens and tweens have to get their heads down, study, revise and sit exams. With 3 teenagers myself I have had my fair share of it all, so hopefully I can offer you a few tools to help you get through what can be a really stressful time!

Let’s start by recognising that stress is not all bad! A bit of stress helps our kids stay motivated and focused and gives them adrenaline to keep going. They all experience stress and that is OK, but it all depends on how they respond to it!  So let’s look at some signs that show that your child is NOT dealing with it well:

Signs of stress:

  • Sleep: insomnia or sleeping too much (can be a sign they are worrying too much or have given up, that it’s all got too much)
  • Mood swings/irritability
  • Anger – shouting and yelling at you
  • Ticks or twitches of their eyes
  • Sore jaw or teeth (due to tension at night or day)
  • Change in eating habits: not eating or binge-eating
  • Sad and introverted

This stress comes from:

  • School: they need to reach the numbers and there is nothing we can do about that!
  • Peers: don’t want to be the ‘loser’
  • Self: kids can be hard on themselves
  • Us: yes we can really add to the stress, but here is the good news – we can also support our kids to manage and control it and in the process save ourselves from lots of stress and worry

How to manage stress:

  • Stay connected and make exams and revision about the relationship between you and the child NOT the work: make sure you have some time EVERY DAY where you are together without worries, work or battles. Where you are relaxed, calm and 100% present with your child, giving them your full positive attention. You can plan some ‘connecting’ time before revision and after – so you set a positive mood and it can be their reward!
  • Help with a planner: help your child to make a plan of what they will do every day so they can enjoy time off without worrying. Make sure you also plan in some fun, calm and chill time! Make sure you help your child to plan in some time for rest, fresh air, exercise and a bit of down time with family a friends,  it is all about balance!
  • Digital distraction: agree to no phone or distractions where they study, make sure they sit in an area without noise or people walking in and out
  • Diet, fresh air and sleep:  make sure you only have healthy energy food in the house and that they drink LOTS of water (and take it to school), sugar might ‘feel good’ here and now but really has no benefit in the long run, on the contrary. Get some outside time every day, even if it is just a walk around the block. Sleep, sleep and more sleep – make sure that they have no digital distractions or sugar at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Control your words:Stay Calm and Breath; if you show signs of stress, so will they and start mirror your feelings and get even more worried. Try to come from a place of listening and understanding if your child gets frustrated; ‘I can hear you are frustrated and I understand that is how you feel’. Sometimes that is enough, it is really nice to be heard and understood. Don’t tell them what to feel or not feel, these are their feelings and we must respect them. Praise effort not only the end results, the grade..’You are really trying so hard and concentration so well, you should be proud of yourself’..
  • Have some fun: yes it is tough but we do need to smile and laugh a bit; put on some music, dance around, tell a joke and have a giggle. Laughing and smiling is a big stress killer!!
  • Set rewards: rule number one – DON’T pay them to do their revision or exams. To read more about ‘Exam Gifts’ CLICK here. But you can give some encouragement along the way. With your child try to come up with Small rewards: i.e. your favourite dessert tonight, go for a picnic in the park when you have done your revision, hang out with a friend for a few hours, go for a run spedn some extra speicl time with you  etc. Medium rewards: On Friday go to the cinema, have a sleepover on Saturday etc. Big rewards: this summer go to a festival, go camping with a friend once all the exams are over, a holiday etc.

Above all remember that these are not YOUR exams so try to let them get on with it – but stay connected and close by when they need your support, attention or a shoulder to cry on.

We wish you all the best with your exams this summer!

From the ParentingSuccess Team

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