Coping Well with Exam Stress

Standardized Testing in Education

Exams are on the way – for some it’s important exams – but actually for many students every exam feels important at the time.

Parents want to help, but the trouble is that a lot of the best tips for managing exam stress sound incredibly like the nagging we may have been doing for years – eat your greens, go to bed early, exercise, plan ahead, check your answers, don’t worry.

How we help our children to manage exam stress – or any stress – gives them tools for life.  

It is rarely a case of simply running through a useful check list, however.  Check lists are useful, but implementing them is not simple.  We know this from our own experience – or we’d all be well slept, exercised, fed, organised, stimulated, productive and relaxed!

As adults we also know that when we are stressed and overwhelmed, the best thing that can happen is if someone can take some of the load away.

Take some of the pressure off your teen.

Even though you may feel run off your feet, wherever you can and whenever she will let you, take on some of the pressure yourself.

You may feel that your teen is old enough to take responsibility for her own food, sleep, washing, planning, time management, exercise, organisation, perspective, and motivation – and perhaps normally she is, but exam-time isn’t normally.  Remember how much better you can cope in times of high demand when someone else shoulders some of your responsibilities.  Websites offering good advice to teens about how to cope with exams are plentiful – but this may not be an easy time for your teen to take it in, or put it into action.  So you do it.  Read the advice, scan the checklists, and trust your instincts about which pieces of information will be most relevant to your child.  Then get creative in how you can step in and help your teen to improve her exam coping skills.

Here are some examples, but you will need to tailor-make yours to suit you and your daughter:

*  Better sleep – buy her some epsom salts or lavender oil to add to a relaxing bath that you run half an hour before a sensible bedtime.

*  Improved diet – rather than fretting about her eating junk, fill her plate and your cupboards with appetizing treats that you do want her to eat (peaches, dried mango, cashew nuts, hot chocolate to replace coffee, her favourite dishes, boil her an egg for breakfast).

*  Motivation – especially if your child is having trouble motivating herself, know that your nudging or nagging will get her down.  Make it your job to notice when she does manage to study.  Give thought to what gets in the way when she doesn’t and how you could help.

*  Laundry – do hers: gather in the dirties, wash, dry, sort and put them away.  One less thing for her to do.

*  Water – fill her a water bottle for the day, and place a glass of water with lemon slice on her desk while she studies.

*  Exercise and breaks – offer to go swimming with her, or walk the dog, or to take her and her friends dancing.

*  Perspective –  Be aware of how you talk about exams – don’t make them sound as if they are everything Childline reports that kids feel that parents are often the source of unbearable exam pressure.  Be around to listen after an exam, don’t dwell on mistakes but focus on what still lies ahead, and suggest she avoid anxious or competitive talk with friends.

*  Take deep breaths when you’re stressed – let her see how that helps you to collect yourself.

*  Self-talk – make yours audible: “Oh help, this is impossible….No, I can do this, I can cope.”  or “I’m useless at this…. Useless? Not beat yet.”

You are not her slave and you can be her saviour.

Parents often fear that if they do too much for their teens, it will not teach them to take care of themselves.  At times of exam stress however, if you do more for your child, you lead by example, showing her ways of taking care of herself.  Initially you are doing it, later on she will.  Once the exams are over, she can return to helping more again; helping herself and you.

You might not have her full appreciation just now; so hold onto the knowledge that the majority of young women in their mid-twenties are full of praise for what their mother’s did for them in their difficult adolescent years.

Finally, if you’re getting stressed about her exams, then take heed of the checklists on how to manage exam stress yourself!

Photo: 123RF by Lisa Young
Posted on 17 April 2014
Musings: Parenting teenagers, Parenting girls
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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