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DAD.info | Fatherhood | Being Dad | Teenagers: how to cope with exam stress

Teenagers: how to cope with exam stress

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It’s exam season! GCSE’s are in full swing and thousands of teens across the country are studying hard in preparation. Unfortunately, exams bring with them a lot of stress. With their future plans hanging in the balance and dependent on their results, the pressure can impact kids hard. Here are some helpful tips to help your teenager cope with exam stress:

  • Maintain perspective

Exams are not the end of the world. Sure, they’re important, but if they don’t get the result they were hoping for there are always other options on the table, or the chance to retake the subject.

Make sure they space revision time with opportunities for rest and relaxation- studying all day can be counter-productive and bad for wellbeing.

  • Encourage routine

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Working for 35-45 minutes at a time is enough, then take a 10-15-minute break.

Encourage your child to step away from screens, get some fresh air, stretch their legs, and have a hydration break. Try accompanying them to get a hot chocolate or a go for a walk mid-revision- chat to them about how they’re finding things. 

  • Ensure they maintain their general health

Make sure they don’t forget the vital need for the basics of wellbeing- enough sleep, good food and hydration.

  • Free time is not laziness!

It’s a difficult balancing act, but structured studying has to be balanced with unstructured free time.

A useful analogy to share with them is that human beings are basically machines. We need fuel, and we also need to switch our engine off every now and again. Otherwise we risk overheating!

  • Avoid stimulants

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We often see a rise in the use of energy drinks, caffeine tablets, and other stimulants at this time of year. However, this can have a counter-productive effect on studying, as it can interrupt their concentration and energy levels, and also inhibit sleep. Keep a selection of healthy snacks in the house- toast, cereal and fruit bars, yogurts and fruit are all good options.

  • Don’t forget your own wellbeing!

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Your children need more from you at this time, for sure, but to be able to give more you need to be able to have more fuel in the tank. Grab moments to find some peace for yourself and find some calm amidst the stress.

  • Connection is important

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When possible, find ways to invite them into the family social life; perhaps, watching a movie one night with popcorn, or going for a family walk, or popping out for a pizza. Don’t just save the treats for the results, as this reinforces that they have more value when they achieve more. Let them know that their well-being and enjoyment of life is still important when they’re striving for success, as well as when they’re achieving it.

  • This too shall pass

Remind stressed teens that while this feels like the most stressful time of their lives, this will pass, and life will move on. Their GCSE results are not worth jeopardising their mental health for, and being well is most important. If your attempts to calm your stressed teen don’t work, try some relaxation techniques with them, such as a box breathing exercise or making a self-soothe box.

Also discuss with your child your own exam experiences, and how you overcame difficult or stressful times. Understanding that we all go through hard times and come out the other side may help them relax a little.

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