Stress and Exams

I have learnt from my mistakes regarding exams and what teenagers need and hope you find this helpful.

Help with exams

The only control you have over your teen is the strength of your relationship with them. The more you work on relating to them in positive ways, the more influence you have over guiding them in the lead up to exams. You cannot force them to study and even if they are up in their rooms, you have no idea if they are studying or not. Therefore, work instead on encouraging and supporting them in their learning efforts and helping them in any blocks they face.

School tips for parents

There are many things you can do to reduce the stress at home during exam time. The most important is to be in a ‘good place’ so you offer them the support they need at this time. Your calmness will have a very positive effect on the atmosphere at home so ensure you do what you need to remain calm and supportive over the coming weeks.

Parenting help: Encouragement and Belief in their ability is crucial

Think about a major challenge you have faced: what did you need? That is what your teen needs:

  • Belief: ‘ You can do it’
  • To have your effort acknowledged
  • Encouragement
  • See your potential
  • They may need  to feel understood and listened to

Study Skills: Help them set goals

Talk with them (as opposed to talking ‘to’ them) about how they feel about the exams and ensure they know you are there for them. Help them to set goals as we all need a destination to work towards.

Junior & Leaving Cert: Set up good routines

  • A study desk with proper lighting in a quiet area/room
  • Homework done straight after school
  • A study schedule for evening/weekend
  • Avail of supervised study if offered by the school during Easter etc.

Exams:Study Routines

  • Be organised with everything you need
  • Decide the block of study, two/four hours, four subjects, five minutes breaks or fifteen minute break halfway through

Exam Stress

A little stress (Eustress) can be helpful to motivate you to get started. However, when stress gets out of hand it inhibits our teen’s ability to focus on the work in hand. The number one response to in the minute stress is to focus on deep abdominal breathing. In the longer term to deep stress at bay is to exercise to help keep perspective and to stay on top of things! A healthy diet and getting outdoors is also helpful in staying in control of exam stress.

Advice for parents:Fear of failure

This is often due to feeling anxious about the ‘unknown’ element of exams, fear of failure and the amount of work to be done. This is where the parent comes in. Fear of failure is very common and unhelpful to our teenagers.

Stress & Exams:

Ensure that your teenager knows they are not ‘an exam result’ and they are loved for themselves, not for what they do. Therefore, if you encounter your teen where they have gone into avoidance or seemed overwhelmed, the approach needs to be ‘Hi honey how are you, I love you’ with no mention of exams. Listen to them and offer support and assure them that their welfare is paramount.

Junior Cert & Leaving Cert: Keep expectations realistic

Keep your expectations realistic and never ever confuse your teenager with their performance and that they need know they are always more important to you than anything else!

Exam Study:Break tasks into manageable chunks

How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time, so the concept of ‘chunking’ is helpful.

A huge task can immobilise us, whereas when we break it down into manageable chunks it is easier. Something we dread is best approached by allocating it ten minutes to see how much we can achieve and it may be less daunting once we begin!

Help with exams:See their effort and learning will continue

What you put out comes back to you (Positive or Negative) and the more you put out, the more you get back so keep telling them what they are doing well and catch them being good!

Parenting the exam student

  • Have the food they like so you ensure they eat
  • Ensure they get adequate sleep
  • Encourage exercise to help relax
  • They are under pressure, so don’t add to it
  • Believe in their intelligence & capability
  • See their effort & believe in their capacity
  • Encourage & praise
  • Negotiate where there are difference between you, if you force a person they will resist you
  • You can’t do the work for them, and this exam is their responsibility
  • Do not personalise what they say or their behaviour, it’s 100% about them, how they are feeling and what they are going through
  • When your child deserves your love the least, they need it the most
  • The most important ‘A’ is an ‘A’ in Emotional Health (there’s a lot going on for our teens)
  • You cannot attend at a ‘head’ level if things are not right at a ‘heart’ level
  • Intelligence & Knowledge are not the same
  • Failure sets the next challenge

Why learning/effort stops

When learning is threatening, a teenager goes into Avoidance, Sickness, and Perfectionism and has a Fear of Failure. Ensure they know they are always more imortant than the result, this exam is not a prophesy of your future lives. Treat your young person with unconditional love, loving them not for what they do, but who they are. Their intelligence is only one way in which they express their individuality

Tips for Parent

  • You cannot take care of them till you first take care of you
  • Do not push yourself too hard, for the sake of your children – if you are calm, so are they.
  • Allow adequate time if bringing them into exams to reduce stress – get up earlier!
  • Ask what you can do for them to help/support them
  • Rushing and racing results in feeling stressed; and you are not in a good place to parent