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Exam Stress

You may not know long complicated maths formulas, but you can help!

Schools are now in exam season and for students there’s no escaping it! Most parents and carers are very much relieved that exam dominated years are very much behind them.  That said, most can probably remember the emotions of exam stress and the feeling of building pressure.

An emotional time

The one thing that hasn’t changed, whether you dread exams or not, is that preparing for and sitting exams is an emotional time and effects everyone differently.

Exam stress, what’s normal?

A bit of stress can be good, but not too much

It’s normal for students to feel stressed during exam time.  This can mean they are tired, feel pressured, confused and they may worry they won’t do well.  These are all normal emotions and for most these feelings encourage them to do that little bit extra revision, work that bit harder in lesson and listen to their teachers more carefully.  For others, stress is being overwhelmed and can make it hard to cope.

What to look for if your child is suffering with exam stress?

For children experiencing stress, their behaviour may appear that they are being lazy, but stress can manifest itself in many ways and be misinterpreted. What to look for:

  • Struggling to sleep
  • Feeling tense or worried most of the time
  • Appearing to suffer with headaches or stomach pains
  • Not enjoying things they use to
  • Changes to friendships 
  • Changes to eating patterns. Not interested in food or seem to be eating much more than normal
  • Continually having negative thoughts about their future or being tearful
  • Generally having a low mood, seeming unhappy or irritated.

As a parent or carer what can you do to help?

An important thing is to remind yourself and your child that exams do not last forever and you are there for them and you can help.

Just be there?

Be around, let them know you are there if they need you.  It’s easy for a child to lock themselves away when they’re studying, so pop in with a drink, their favourite snack or arrange a time to sit and have lunch with them.  By being there, you can be that person they can talk to, share their worries with and you can provide reassurance keeping life and exams in perspective.

Be flexible, don’t add pressure

Recognise right now your child may be not be their usual self.  Don’t worry about an untidy bedroom and avoid touching or rearranging piles of papers or books or insisting they join you on a family outing.  The thing you can do is to stay calm and listen, don’t let your expectations add to their feeling of increasing pressure.

Help them

You don’t need to know complicated maths formulas or have read all the books on the recommended English literature reading list, but you can:

  • Ensure your child has some where quiet to study
  • Help build a revision timetable that includes downtime to do something they enjoy and to exercise
  • Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, not to dwell on things that can’t be changed and to focus on their next exam.  Remind them that they are not alone
  • Spend time revising with them, even if that’s asking subject knowledge questions from their revision notes. 

Keep them healthy

Although your child may say they don’t have time to do the things to keep them healthy, as they have lots of work do to, there are small things parents and carers can do every day to help them cope:

  • Make sure they eat well and are not skipping meals – cook them their favourite meal and eat together. This forces a change of scenery from their revision books, even if it’s for just half an hour.  Buy healthy snacks to eat whilst revising.  The brain is a very hungry organ, it is the area of the body to absorb nutrients from the food we eat first
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep and not revising late into the night;  good sleep improves thinking and concentration
  • Encourage them to keep up with their sports clubs as exercise can help to clear the mind and boost energy
  • Remind them it’s normal to feel anxious and nervous, and importantly keep listening and providing constant reassurance about the now, today, tomorrow and their future.

Recognise if they are struggling

If your child is really struggling you may need additional help.  This could be contacting your child’s school, or finding someone to assist them with a specific subject.  If you feel your child’s anxiety or low mood is severe and is affecting their everyday life, then contacting your GP is a good place to start to get help.

For students at The Ebbsfleet Academy they are advised to contact their Head of House, Tutor, Progress Leaders or a member of staff that they feel comfortable talking to.

For additional help and advice regarding exam stress please visit: