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EXAM STRESS – a Parent’s Guide

Exams, MOC’s, tests…for some students this challenge is embraced, whilst for many it’s a very daunting experience. It’s an important year for our Year 11 & Year 13 students completing their GCSE’s and the IB Diploma and we are sure as parents you will want to support your child/ren during this time.

It is important to note that each child has individual abilities, skills and talent. Whilst a healthy amount of encouragement to achieve and do well can motivate a child and enhance performance, placing too much pressure on a child to perform beyond their capacity can have adverse effects on their emotional wellbeing.

So, what can you do as a parent/carer to ensure a more emotionally healthy approach?

Before the exams:

• Attend any meetings the school invites you about your child or make an appointment with the form tutor to learn more about what will be expected of your child throughout the year.
• Encourage your child to complete homework and coursework in a timely manner, but also encourage them to rest, have fun and enjoy taking part in their hobbies.
• Encourage your child to engage in activities that involve going outside and avoid overuse of screens.
• Encourage your child to speak to teachers if they are worried about meeting deadlines or they seemed stress about exams.
• Plan something nice and fun for the weekends before, during and after exams – this will help your child start each week on a positive note. Something as simple as going out for a walk and having a hot chocolate together can make all the difference!
• Ensure your child is eating and drinking well and getting a suitable amount of sleep.

What should I do if I’m worried about my child?

• Remember that a small amount of anxiety is normal and not harmful; it would be unnatural if exams didn’t induce a certain degree of anxiety or worry. However, exams should not significantly affect your child’s appetite or their ability to sleep, alter your child’s personality, or cause school refusal.
• If you are worried, talk to the school – is your child showing the same symptoms at school as they are at home? Is there anything else going on at home which could be contributing to your child’s overall level of stress?
• Spend time with your child to understand what concerns them most about exams – is it the fear of failing? Is it the worry of going “blank” during an exam? If your child can pinpoint what’s worrying them, you can then identify how best to support them.
• At times, often without realizing, parents can project their own anxieties about exams on to the child. Your child should be encouraged to do their best. Remind your child that exams are important and need to be taken seriously, however tough it may seem, they’ll be over before you know it!