Dealing with exam stress

Many parents find the exam season as stressful as the young people they are trying to support. Personally, these challenges are upon me having two daughters of my own, but as an experienced teacher I am in a position to advise as to how parents can best help their children manage exam stress.

Being organised can help the exam season pass smoothly. Without being interfering, it is usually possible to get a copy of the exam timetable of your son or daughter -many schools have these posted on the school intranet. This will help with planning. There will be days when your children have multiple exams, which will be pressure points for them. If a parent is aware of the pattern of exams they can manage the daily routine with that in mind.

Read all communications from school relating to exams carefully. Check the times that pupils are expected to arrive prior to morning and evening exams. Make sure that your son or daughter can arrive at school in plenty of time- rushing into an exam hall owing to a frantic home routine can place candidates under undue pressure before they even start their exam. If you need to modify your usual school run routine for this period of time, do so.

Check the dates of exams against work plans. Young people need their family around them during the exam period, even if they are head down revising in their room. Though they may appear fiercely independent they will need a strong support network around them, popping in with a cup of tea now and then, checking if they are okay. Some commitments are unavoidable but if parents have a choice then it is better to postpone any trips or periods of absence until the exams are over.

If your son or daughter is showing significant signs of stress then let the school know. Schools have strong pastoral teams, including counsellors who can offer relaxation tips and advice relating to stress management.

If your child is going into meltdown over subject difficulties, contact their subject staff for advice. Most staff are happy to offer additional help sessions during study leave; a steady stream of pupils are to be found lurking outside the staff room, particularly prior to Maths exams.

Remember that you are part of a wider support network that is there to help your son and daughter ( and you )  cope with the exam stress that lies ahead. Finally, never lose sight of the fact that the exam period is finite and the long, stress-free summer holidays stretch out ahead. If you can support your child through this period, the whole family can breathe a joint sigh of relief in mid- July, at which point you will all have earned a good night out.


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