So how do you cope with exam stress? It’s hard to find a happy medium for your child to cope with exam stress. Some stress is good, it helps them focus. But we must keep them grounded. Here’s what worked for us:
1 Self belief
2 Changing the mood
It’s easy for us as parents to tell your teen not to worry, it will all work out! But if they are about to sit major exams, then chances are they are not taking this advice on board. We had to use a few techniques to get the message through.
Let me share what helped in our house to get the job done.
We all experience stress in our lives on a day to day basis. But learning to deal with it is the key to being able to cope. This year we are in the unusual position that both of our teenage children are studying for state exams.
Our eldest, a daughter is in her final year of high school and our son is just finishing elementary.
Our daughter is a complete self starter, pushes herself to the absolute limits and always achieves what she sets out to do. However in the run up to her pre exams, it became apparent that her biggest challenge was not her knowledge but her faith in herself.
How do you convince your seventeen year old teen that she has done enough study and work to achieve the grades she needs. To be honest it is a very difficult dilemma to be in.
I know she has put so much work into her senior cycle since the get go but she is listening to her peers discussing how many hours of study they are doing each night. Mostly quite dubious in my opinion.
Also teachers telling her class that they haven’t done enough work and they are all going to fail. How can people that are there to teach, and get all these kids to the finish line think that such negativity could possibly be in any way positive?
So how do we get her past this? These exaggerated study plans by her peers are fake. The teachers comments are not being directed at you.
Please believe in yourself
But since the beginning of time, teenagers don’t listen to parents advice. So we have to find a way of getting through to them without them thinking we’re talking trash.
I trawled the internet looking for advice. No parent wants to walk into their childs room and see them surrounded by books and in floods of tears.
And most articles say the same thing, make sure you are supporting them, make sure they are taking enough breaks, make sure they are eating enough when studying. But I couldn’t find anything to manage a lack of self belief.
Changing the mood
And so I tried the only thing that I knew. Humour. I found that if I could change her humour then she could lift herself out of her negative belief. I also found an article about ‘Tapping’.
The idea is that you tap gently with two fingers on your face or neck and concentrate on the rhythm to take your mind off the stressful situation. It had a positive effect and felt that it calmed her down.
There are other methods of calming, such as counting to ten or gentle meditation, thinking of pleasant memories. It’s basically just trying to get them to place themselves in a different space momentarily to readjust their thoughts so they can refocus and get back to a good headspace where they can concentrate on what’s important.
At the end of the day if they are not focussed then it doesn’t matter how much study they are doing, little or none of it is being retained.
Once the exams began she actually began to relax a great deal. It’s an overwhelming feeling of the unknown. She was getting so anxious about ‘the exams’ she couldn’t see past them.
She couldn’t acknowledge all the work and study she had done and that she was actually prepared and so as the days went by and the end was in sight she began to take on board what we had been saying.
It’s very important that they are prepared. You can do a little study and pass a class test or two but only by putting in the hours can you truly feel that you are ready for final exams.
They are testing your knowledge for two to three years and this can only be achieved by hard work. We found that whatever was available, study notes, extra textbooks, tutoring, if they need them, then make them available.
However, we always need to be sure that your child actually wants the extra help. If your son/daughter is in their final year they should be mature enough to know that this is important. They need to want it.
The stress our daughter was feeling wasn’t because she hadn’t done enough work but because her biggest obstacle was herself. She had lost the confidence to know that she could do it.
Everyone has anxiety when they are being tested. It’s human nature, no one wants to fail. You want to make people and yourself proud. But this becomes an issue if it takes over and you can’t think of anything else.
And so if you can teach your child a coping method such as tapping, or counting to ten, thinking of something pleasant, it will hopefully be able to alleviate some anxiety and enable them to calm themselves enough to get the job done.
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Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.