Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations, our palms start sweating, our hearts race and our stomachs drop. While this is often nothing to be concerned about, for some adolescents these feelings can become overwhelming, and can be triggered by the stress of exams.
Exam time at school can not only bring stress and pressure to the calmest teenager but can also be a challenging time for everyone else in their life as we, their parents and guardians, try our best to support them.
Causes of exam stress
Sitting exams is likely going to be a new experience for your child and as such, the associated stress can be caused by several underlying reasons. These may include:
- A fear of failure,
- Unrealistic expectations,
- Feeling unprepared,
- Performance anxiety, or
- Ending or starting a new school year or term.
How do I know if my child is stressed?
Each child responds differently to exam stress and pressure. They may talk openly about their feelings or hold back and try to cope on their own. While stress and exam anxiety present differently for everyone, here’s a few signs to look out for:
- Physical responses like skin breakouts or mild stomach upsets,
- Teeth grinding, nail biting or fidgeting,
- Showing anger or frustration,
- Problems sleeping or waking up,
- Difficulty making decisions, or
- Losing touch with friends.
How you can help
Being the parent or guardian can present its own challenges, after all this is something your child has to do for themselves. They will need your understanding and there is plenty that you can do support them, here’s a few things to try in the lead up to their exams:
- Encourage your child to speak with their teachers if they’re unsure about their subjects or exam content,
- Ensure they have a quiet space to study and minimise unwarranted distractions,
- Encourage good sleeping and eating patterns – these become even more important during times of stress, and
- Keep a positive outlook, maintain realistic expectations and be constructive in your communication.
On the day of the exam help them to be on time or arrive early and after the exam listen to their concerns and try not to criticise.
You’re not alone
Support is available for you and your family; for a list of resources, visit parentline.com.au. If you’re struggling, speaking with a counsellor about how to help as a parent may be of benefit and it may help your child having someone outside the family unit to work through their stress with as well.
If you’re concerned about the health wellbeing or your child, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor or health care professional.