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How To Help Your Child Cope With Exam Stress

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Tests and exams can be a stressful part of school for children and young adults. But there are ways to reduce exam stress and make sure your child does their best.

Look out for exam stress symptoms

If your child or teen is stressed about an upcoming test you may notice changes in their behavior, such as:

  • not sleeping well

  • irritability

  • headaches or stomach pains

  • eating more or less than usual

  • not enjoying activities they normally enjoy

  • negativity or low mood

Talk to them about their test anxiety

Encourage them to talk about their exam worries. This can help them to keep things in perspective. Remind your child that feeling nervous is a natural part of taking tests. The important thing is using their anxiety in a positive way, such as to motivate them to study.

Be reassuring and positive

Give your child positive support and avoid criticism. Don’t add extra pressure. Parental worries and expectations are a major part of the stress children feel over taking exams. Instead, focus on ways to help them to feel more confident, such as teaching them better study strategies and helping them prepare for the test.

Encourage healthy eating

A balanced diet is always important to your child’s health, but even more so during test time. It’s best to avoid high-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine foods and drinks. Instead focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and protein. A balanced diet will help give them the lasting energy they need for studying and taking their exams.

Make sure they get enough sleep

Sleep is essential to thinking and concentrating. Teens generally need 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night, younger children need even more. Encourage your child to go to bed at a reasonable time the night before a test – sleep is more important than last minute cramming. If you can, get them to shut off mobile phones, tablets and computers an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from their screens can make it harder to fall asleep. Find out more about children’s sleep needs.

Help them to study

Most students understand the importance of revision before an exam, but often don’t know the best way to prepare. Start by making sure they have a quiet place to study where they won’t be interrupted or distracted. Ask if there is anything they need to help them study, such as notecards or highlighters.

Suggest practical steps to help them prepare, such as finding out if there are past tests they can use for practice, or helping them come up with a study schedule. It’s best to limit study sessions to blocks of no longer than 30 minutes to an hour. After this most children find it difficult to concentrate.

Go over the material with them. Ask them questions to make sure they truly understand the material instead of just memorizing the information. Being well prepared and having this deeper understanding are some of the best ways for how to get over school stress.

Get help with difficult projects

Exams are only one of the things students stress about. If your teen is struggling with a term paper, book review or college entrance essay, it may help to consult with a professional service, like to relieve some of the pressure.

Teach them healthy ways to relax

Explore techniques for how to relax before an exam, such as listening to calming music or using deep breathing exercises. Physical activity is another great way to relieve stress. Any kind of exercise is good – walking, running, playing sports – anything that gets them moving.

Reward them for their hard work

Find ways to reward your child for both study sessions as well as taking their test. Learning how to relax after an exam is an important part of the process. Don’t dwell on how the test went – encourage your child to let it go and move on to the next test or project. After it’s over, celebrate with a special treat of their choice.

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