Supporting Your Child Through Exam Stress

Help your child manage exam stress

Examinations are stressful for every child, sometimes even more so for you as a parent. As society places great emphasis on grades, it might be tempting for you to push your kid to his limits – only because you mean well. But is this causing unnecessary exam stress and creating an adverse effect instead?

How do you know if your child has exam stress?

Some people feel pressurised and develop stress symptoms more than others. Some are also able to mask it well, yet the stress may be taking a toll on them internally. It is important to notice the little differences in your child’s behaviour, and not attribute it to an immature response. Your child can go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode with increased pressure. It can lead to symptoms such as cranky or irritable behaviour, physical symptoms such as mild chest pains, back pains, and so forth, and other small changes such as possible skin breakouts, teeth grinding, etc..

What causes exam stress?

It is crucial to understand what causes exam stress so that you can spur your child to perform his best without putting them into overdrive. Some causes might be due to an inability to accept failure, pessimism about themselves, unrealistic expectations (set both by themselves and parents), being unprepared, family and relationship issues, or just performance anxiety.

Here are some tips on how to help your child cope with the exam stress.

Listen to the story of their day – and move on

After each day’s exam, it is beneficial to let your child recount about what happened, but let it remain like that. Don’t dwell on his mistakes or review in detail about each incorrect answer as it only creates more stress. Move on and focus on preparing for the next paper instead.

Work out a revision timetable and checklist

Planning a clear and structured revision plan helps your child feel in control of his studies. Assign allocated revision time each day, breaking them into small chunks with small breaks, so they do not feel overwhelmed. It may also help to buy post-its, new stationery, highlighters and pens to make revision more interesting.

Get the whole family’s help

Get the family to cooperate by making life at home as calm, pleasant and conducive as possible. Remind them to keep the volume of the TV or music low, for example. However, don’t isolate your child in the study room upstairs, either. They need some contact with the family to maintain their spirits during examinations, and to know that the family is supporting them every step of the way.

Make sure they have a good night’s sleep

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep before an exam to be at peak performance. Discourage your child from staying up late to cram. All revisions should end at least an hour before bed to allow the student to unwind. Going straight to bed from the study desk means that their mind will still be whirling for hours as they attempt to fall asleep.

Bribes Vs Rewards

Don’t ‘bribe’ your child to do well in exams by offering cash or presents. This kind of reinforcement sends the message that reward for hard work is money and that you don’t trust your child to work hard. Instead, make sure your child knows you’re interested in their work and that you’ll be proud if they do well. You can celebrate the end of the exams with a treat that everyone can look forward to, such as a nice meal out or a trip to the cinema with the family.

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