Essential Advice for Supporting Your Child Through Exam Seasons

The exam period can be a challenging time for both children and their parents. It’s a time filled with stress, anticipation, and the pressure to perform well. For parents, the desire to support and guide their children through this overwhelming phase is essential to their success and wellbeing.

The GCSE time table is May and June for Year 11’s, and A-level’s for year 13’s. And while your children may have undertaken mock exams, the consequences of failure add far more pressure.

This article will provide essential top tips on how parents and carers can effectively aid their children in preparing for exams, ensuring they remain motivated, confident, and ready to tackle their tests head-on.

stress teenage girl
If you are worried about your child’s mental health and stress levels, seek information and advice from the NHS

Understanding Stress

Being stressed releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which cause a fight-or-flight stress response. And our bodies are not equipped to handle long-term stress and it’s likely to be the first time they have experienced it at this level. This should be treated at an opportunity to teach our children how to handle it, which is a very important life skill.

There are physical responses to stress including headaches, low energy and tiredness, upset stomach, nausea, insomnia, and well as emotional responses such as becoming easily agitated, frustrated, moody, low self esteem, depression and a genuine feeling over being overwhelmed. It’s the biggest cause of a nervous breakdown.

It also causes forgetfulness and disorganization, poor judgement, inability to focus, procrastination, avoiding responsibility, and detachment. Which goes against everything needed to revise and be successful at exam time.

Stress is only relieved when the stressor is no longer an issue. So we are talking a prolonged period when it comes to exam season over months and maybe years.

stressed teenager taking
A stressed teen will struggle to perform in a test or exam

Handing the Impact of Stress of Exams

Exams can often feel like monumental hurdles for teenagers, with their future seemingly hanging in the balance in those exam results. And at that age it does, as good grades are needed for the next stage in live, be that a-levels or university placements. Of course, failed a-levels is not the end of the world and plenty of options to overcome it.

And this article is not a discussion about the carrot or stick method, or study methods to get best results. It’s just about supporting your children over this period.

It’s crucial for parents to understand exam stress and anxiety that their children might be experiencing. And more importantly, to not exacerbate the already stressful situation by piling it on or being an aggressively hard taskmaster.

stressed teenager struggles with exam revision
If the first exam hasn’t gone well, it could create a snowball of worry and anxiety

And if you don’t agree, consider what you want to gain out of this, which I assume is outstanding exam results. Then consider what your stress coping mechanisms are, as commonly it’s substance abuse. And if your child sees your coping strategy as opening a bottle of wine each evening, does that make it easier or harder to avoid temptation when peers put alcohol or drugs in front of them?

Being a teenager is tough enough, they are going through more than exams as a young person, with the added distraction of social pressures and body changes, and possibly some levels of bullying about being academic or their looks. Exam season is just another challenge, and it’s around this age when they are potentially questioning life choices and the world they live in. For teenagers, having a spot and acne is earth-shattering, and FOMO is real.

Recognising these pressures allows for a supportive environment where open communication is encouraged. Talk to your child about their concerns and listen without judgment, and encourage your child to talk to you too. Sometimes, the simple act of having someone to talk to can significantly reduce their stress levels.

And this is key, if you get angry about mistakes they are making, why would they ever come to you in a time of real need? Please remember we were all kids once, and for us thankful it was without social media.

Creating a calm and supportive home environment is absolutely vital. Ensure that your home is a place where your child can study effectively without unnecessary distractions. Additionally, encourage regular breaks and ensure they maintain a healthy balance between studying and relaxing. It’s all about creating a routine that supports both their academic goals and their well-being. If you do anything, make sure your child has somewhere quiet to relax and study.

If you truly want to give them the best chance of success, support your child by giving structure to their revision timetable. Ensure they rest, eat a healthy diet and get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, and not just the night before an exam.

stressed teenage girl struggles to revise for
Help young people manage their stress during revision and exams and address exam anxiety head on

Providing External Support

Sometimes, additional support outside of the home environment can be beneficial for a teen’s exam preparation. Considering life coaching for teens can offer that extra layer of guidance and motivation. A professional coach can provide personalised strategies and support tailored to your child’s needs, helping them to overcome obstacles and enhance their study habits.

If you’re looking for ways to help support your teen through their exams, exploring options like coaching for teens can be a step in the right direction. It’s a valuable resource that can complement your support, ensuring your child is well-prepared, confident, and ready to tackle their exams head-on.

This could also help if they are struggling with a specific subject, where a tutor could help build their knowledge and confidence and get them exam ready.

Setting Realistic Goals

One of the key aspects of support is helping your child set realistic and achievable goals for their exams. It’s important to balance ambition with what’s practically attainable to avoid unnecessary stress and pressure at exam time.

Work together to set clear objectives for each subject, breaking down the revision into manageable chunks. This approach not only makes the study material less daunting but also provides a clear roadmap for what needs to be accomplished each day.

Celebrate the small victories together. Every goal met is a step closer to success and acknowledging these can boost your child’s confidence and motivation. It’s essential to remind them that exams are just one part of their journey and not the sole determiner of their future.

teenager studies for exam at home
Any child with exams needs a quiet place to study and revise, free from distracting noise

The Role of Effective Study Habits

Developing effective study habits is crucial for exam success. Encourage your child to find out which study methods work best for them, whether it’s through visual aids, reading, or interactive learning. Every child is unique, and understanding their learning style can make a significant difference in their exam preparation.

Incorporate practice tests into their revision schedule. These can help familiarise them with the exam format and timing, reducing anxiety and improving their performance. Additionally, teaching them time management skills will ensure they use their study time efficiently, leaving room for breaks and leisure activities to avoid burnout.

teenager talks to parents over healthy dinner
What a child eats impacts cognitive behaviour with a nutritional diet having a immediate and long-term beneficial effect

Maintaining Physical and Mental Well-being

The physical and mental well-being of your child is just as important as their academic preparation during the exam period. Ensuring they have a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and get enough sleep each night are fundamental aspects that contribute significantly to their performance and energy levels.

A healthy body fosters a healthy mind, which is crucial for focus, memory retention, and overall performance. Brain-boosting foods enhance your memory, focus, and concentration. Try to bring into their diet Avocados, Beetroot, Berries, Citrus fruits, Eggs, Nuts, Olive oil, and Salmon. And herbs like Rosemary and Turmeric. And magnesium tablets are good for clearing brain fog too. These

Try to avoid too many carbs and buying them energy drinks which are just caffeine and sugar, so counter-intuitive to their long-term needs and will make them sluggish. Encourage your child to take short, regular breaks during study sessions to rest and recharge to reduce their anxiety. Activities such as a quick walk outside, a bit of exercise, or even just stepping away from the study materials can provide a much-needed mental break.

These moments away from the books are not wasted time; they’re essential for maintaining a balanced state of mind. To quieten the jumbled noise in their head.

older teenager talks to family over healthy meal
An environment where siblings, parents and children can talk openly helps develop a stronger relationship in later years

Communication is Key

Open lines of communication between you and your child are essential during the exam period. Regularly check in with them about how they’re feeling, what they’re struggling with, and how you can assist. These conversations should be pressure-free and focused on providing support rather than adding stress.

It’s also important to remind your child that it’s okay to ask for help, whether from you, their teachers, or their peers. Knowing they have a support network they can turn to can alleviate much of the pressure and anxiety they may be feeling. Encourage them to be proactive in seeking help when they need it, reinforcing the idea that asking for assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Celebrate Efforts, Not Just Results

Recognising and celebrating the effort your child puts into their exam preparation is crucial. It’s easy to get caught up in the outcome of the exams, but acknowledging the hard work, dedication, and perseverance your child shows throughout the process is equally important. This reinforces the value of effort and determination, qualities that are important far beyond the exam period.

Create a culture of positive reinforcement in your home, where effort is acknowledged and celebrated. This approach helps build resilience and a positive mindset, teaching your child that while outcomes are important, it’s the effort and journey that truly define success.

Key takeaways

So there you go, it’s a simple checklist. You can support them by ensuring a quiet place to study, encourage them to talk to understand what stresses them out, and make sure they eat and sleep well. Really it’s what we should be doing every day as parents and carers, not just during exam time.

We should be giving our children a head start with a quiet space for homework through the school years, preparing unprocessed healthy meals, openly talking about worries and feelings, promoting the importance of self-care and giving constant encouragement.