How to Help Your Child Deal with Exam Stress

Exam periods can be stressful for both children and their parents, but with a little help your child can sail through exam time stress-free

The mere mention of exams can strike fear and stress into the hearts of children, their parents and carers. Parents get anxious about how much work their children are doing, whether they are taking care of themselves and whether they will get the results they want or need. Children are often stressed, anxious and irritable, and can have difficulties eating and sleeping. Furthermore, according to a poll run by young people's mental health and wellbeing charity YoungMinds, around a third of pupils say they have no-one to talk to at school when things get tough.

Dealing with exam stress

Exam support: advice for parents

If you are worried about your child's stress levels around school work or exams, the first thing to do is talk to them. They may not want to admit it at first and may be scared they will be told off. It's really important to reassure your child they have your support and you want to help them do their best, even if it seems like it's too late.

It is also important to talk to their teacher about your concerns.

Their teacher should be able to tell you how your child is behaving at school and if there are any areas they need specific help with.

They can help your child draw up a timetable of their work and when it needs to be done by. The school may have specialised staff, such as learning mentors, who can support your child.

To help your child with their homework and school work, it is important to find out what they are studying each term, what homework they have and when it needs to be handed in. Your child's class or form teacher should provide you with this information, if not, make sure you ask for it. Many secondary school children use a virtual learning environment (website) set up by the school, where they can log in and receive information, do research and complete their work online.

Exam support: stress-busting tips

  • Be supportive: Rather than policing your child, it is important to support them to do their best - show that you value education because it will give them the best chances and bring out their talents. Reassurance is very important, so make sure they know you are proud of them and will love them even if they don't get top marks
  • Remain calm: Accept this is going to be a stressful time for the whole family - expect outbursts and try to remain calm. Remember to try and work with your child and support them, rather than policing them
  • Plan ahead: Try and find out as early as possible what is expected of your child, when their exams will be and when coursework needs to be handed in
  • Revision techniques: Find out what revision techniques are recommended by the school, and check out online revision sites. Also remember that children have different ways of revising - some may prefer to be alone, while others work best surrounded by noise and family
  • Long-term planning: Be clear that avoiding subjects they find difficult will not be helpful in the long run
  • Be open and available: Encourage children to talk to you if they are really worried they haven't done enough work. Reassure them that if they do not get their expected grades, there will be other opportunities ahead, and they should just do their best
  • Contacting the school: If you have any concerns or questions, contact the school rather than relying on your child to do it - most teachers have email addresses which can be useful if they are hard to contact
  • Have a break: Encourage your child to have regular breaks, to do something they enjoy, even if it's just half an hour off for their favourite TV programme. Exercise is also a good way to relax, even just a walk around the block
  • Healthy eating: Make sure they eat healthy snacks regularly and drink enough so they don't get dehydrated - you can always pop your head in to see how they are doing and bring them a drink
  • Understand your child: Respect your child's body clock - many teenagers are more alert during the night and this may be the best time for them to revise, even though it makes parents anxious!
  • Reward: Try and plan something nice for when it's all over-reward them for trying their best, however they feel it went.

More information for parents on dealing with exam stress

The YoungMinds Parents' Helpline offers free confidential support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25.

Email parents@youngminds.org.uk or call free Monday to Friday 9.30am-4pm on 0808 802 5544.