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Helping kids cope with exam stress

Exam stress can be really challenging, not only for kids but also for those who live with them! Here are some ideas about how to help.

Girl holding school books looking worried with concerned Mum standing behind

When your child faces exams, often scheduled close together, they are under incredible pressure. They’ll need your understanding and support.

Here’s some aspects of exam stress you might not have considered:

Stress is a negative reaction to excessive pressure or other demands.

Exam stress can be caused by:

Fear of ‘failure’
Pessimism and thinking the worst
Unrealistic expectations
Feeling unprepared
Ending or starting a new school year or term
Performance anxiety

What to expect when exam stress hits

Your child may openly express how stressed they’re feeling. Or they may hold it in and try to cope on their own. These are some signs they may be under stress:

Blaming others, anger or frustration

Difficulty making decisions

Problems going to sleep or waking up

Racing heart and sweating

Mild chest tightness or pain

Nausea or minor stomach upsets

Skin breakouts

Teeth grinding, nail biting and fidgeting

Increased smoking, drinking or drug use

Losing touch with friends

Feeling cranky and irritable (increased yelling, crying, swearing, lashing out)

Feeling or thinking negatively about the future

“Exams can be a challenging part of your child’s life. If they are struggling it can help to talk to a counsellor about what you can do as a parent”

How can kids manage their exam stress?

One of the challenges as a parent is that exams are something your child has to do on their own. But you can support them by trying the following:

Teach them the importance of study breaks
Be constructive and positive
Encourage good sleep patterns and eating habits
Provide a quiet space for them to study and prepare
Having realistic expectations and not pushing them too hard
Encourage them to ask the teacher questions if they’re unsure
Help them know what to expect on the day of the exam
Help them be on time for the exam or arrive early
After the exam, listen to their concerns and avoid criticising them

Parenting your child while they're going through exams can be tough, but we're here to help them.

They may benefit from letting out their stress by talking with a counsellor - encourage them to call Kids Helpline, start a WebChat or email us today.

If exam stress is paralysing your child, you can seek further help through your local doctor or school counsellor.

If you're struggling with a parenting issue then call the Parentline counselling service in your State.

If you are looking for more digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018

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