How Parents Can Help Teens Manage Their Exam Stress

The wish of every parent for their child is to have success in life and fulfill his dreams. Children and teenagers face challenges to overcome during the road to progress, but it is important to remember that whatever duty or task a teen may face, it carries a considerable amount of stress for them. 

But what is stress? Stress is our body's response to pressure. There are various situations or life events that trigger stress. It happens when we are faced with something new, unknown, which is a threat to ourselves, or if we have no control over something.  In such cases, adrenaline is released which raises heart and breathing rate. Our muscles become tense and we are in a state of alertness. 

But when we deal with exams a little bit of stress is helpful. Annie Wylie from ReachOut, Australia's leading online mental health organization states about stress: "Up to a certain level, stress can be kind of good.

It increases your productivity, it makes you want to achieve goals and it gives you adrenaline and energy to make things happen. But stress reaches a point and that stops happening, you plateau, and then after that plateau, these effects start decreasing."

People can find many situations stressful, like work, school, social interactions, or even what they will eat for dinner. All people are unique, and so are stressful situations. It's not a sin to feel stress about something, but it is a duty to relieve stress if it threatens someone's health and wellbeing.

How do we understand children's stressful situations? 

How children and teens can develop strategies to manage stress
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Exams are part of the curriculum, they play an important role in students' learning and evaluation. They can trigger students to work harder during their school years, but they carry an amount of stress and anxiety. Exam stress impacts a teenager's mental health and physical wellbeing.

Adolescence is a difficult period to experience, and it's difficult also to handle a teenager at home, especially during coronavirus time with family members staying inside more than needed. Assisting a teenager to handle his exam stress, would help him have a better performance during his study, and it will create less tension studying at home during that period.

To begin with, parents should recognize the signs of stress. In teenagers stress and anxiety can appear through different behaviors:

1. Getting Irritable and angry at small things.

Children and teenagers often lack the skills to express their feelings leading which creates tension and a bad mood. In such cases, they become short-tempered or more argumentative than usual. 

2. Constant and sudden changes in behavior.

Sudden changes in behavior can be a sign that teens are going through a very stressful situation. 

3. Problem with sleeping, leading to insomnia.

Teenagers start to feel tired most of the time, they find it difficult to sleep at night or may sleep more than usual.

4. Avoiding their duties. 

When a teenager skips his obligations or begins procrastinating his tasks beyond the limit, stress might be the main cause. 

5. Eating and digestion problems.

Eating too much or too little are indicators of high stress levels.

6. Getting sick more than usual. 

Stress causes physical problems. Children who are going under a stressful period report headaches, stomaches, and frequent visits to the nurse's office.

7. Feeling reluctant and spending more time on schoolwork. 

They are reluctant to go to school or talk about tests and exams. They spend more time than necessary on their work or try to avoid schoolwork. 

8. Becoming obsessive with results.

They become overly critical about their school performances and obsessive in the way they study - they refuse to take a break.

Teenagers during their high school year have common stresses and pressures during the exam period. They experience many difficulties and challenges like: 

1. The pressure of expectation.

Having a conversation with your teen can help you understand if you agree. It proves to them they can always discuss with you their decisions.

2. Trouble focusing and studying for long hours.

Social media is a great way to connect people, friends, and relatives, but it is a big cause of distraction for teens from the real world. But take into consideration, are the life, relationships, and connection on social media real or fake?

3. When school is not the right environment for your teen.

The education may work for a certain category of students, but not for all. This can generate a lot of stress for some teens. 

4. Post-school alternatives.

Year 12 exams are a cornerstone in adolescents' life. During this time remind them that whatever happens, even people with setbacks can achieve great things, to relieve their stress.

How can I help my teen with exam stress?

how do i help my teen with exam strsss
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Parents need to prepare themselves how to deal with their teen's exam stress. This period will come for every parent. Several pieces of advice can be beneficial for parents and teens if they apply them in their life like:  

  • Provide for them a comfortable place to study. 
  • Establish a revision routine by adjusting the family schedule and priorities that work for them. 
  • Ask for help from teachers and attend information evenings to learn how to better support your teen. 
  • Don't criticize them about untidiness and everyday chores. 
  • Be patient with their tempers and moodiness. 
  • Quit nagging them, it will only distract them. 
  • It can never be too late to study, revise and ask for help. 
  • Give them rewards to motivate them.
  • Give them a 10 minute break time
  • Be calm, stay positive and reassure them by putting everything into perspective.
  • Don't put pressure on them, they have already enough. 

Fight their negative thinking by asking them to properly evaluate the situation, remind them of their previous successes. When they see things positively they will develop resilience to stress. 

Get them ready for the exam, encourage them to take all the school supplies such as pens, pencils, etc. Remind them to sleep early and have a restful sleep. In the morning make a healthy breakfast to help them stay focused and concentrate. Check everything they need, and encourage them to feel positive when they leave. Remind them whatever happens you are always proud of them.

Do exams cause mental illnesses?

Battling mental illness and trying to focus on exam
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Excessive stress has always been a problem for people's health, young and adults as well, in addition, exam stress cannot be neglected also for ti can cause severe problems in adolescents mental health. Stress can cause depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, or feelings of being a failure, self-harming and suicidal thoughts. It can worsen mental health problems that are already present. 

As a result, if you see withdrawals symptoms in your child, or irritation, insomnia, crying fits, feeling of being exhausted, and what's worse if your child displays self-harming behavior like cutting, etc, in such cases it is the right time to see the family doctor.

How can I study without stress?

How to ace your exams without stress & strain
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Study Without Stress is a program designed for high school students to assist them with knowledge and the right techniques how to deal with exam stress and heavy workload during their final years of high school.

Students are advised to participate in such a program before stress reaches a critical level, however, the program has proved to benefit at any time. 

This program applies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to come to aid teenagers during their high school years and handle the stress to a controllable level. It includes the following topics:

  • Understanding stress (what causes it, its symptoms, and the key role of how to respond to it).
  • Goal settings.
  • Evaluating predictions and perspectives related to exams.
  • Organizing efficacious agenda.
  • Understand how thoughts affect results.
  • Fight negative thought patterns and thinking. 
  • Understanding perfectionism.
  • Understanding procrastination.
  • Advice on how to cope with avoiding work.
  • Creating and enforcing beneficial study habits.
  • Apply procedures for problem-solving and exam preparation.

How do you maintain mental health during exams?

How do you maintain mental health during exams

High school years are considered to be some of the best years of someone's life. They are the ones that shape and determine our future. Nevertheless, being in high school can be frustrating when you have to deal with tasks and general exams.

Below are the practical tips to relieve exam stress:

1. When you experience stress, talk about it.

A problem shared is a problem halved. Sometimes it is hard to deal with exam stress and it's normal, but keeping it to yourself will only make it harder to deal with. Share it with a friend, relative, family member, or school counselor. 

2. Exercise regularly.

Exercising can be challenging to some, but 20 minutes a day lifts your mood even if it is just a walk around the block. When you play ping pong or exercise, the endorphins that the brain releases are clinically proven by scientists to make you feel better, improve your sleep and concentrate more. 

3. Set small goals.

Too much stress and mental disorders can make the smallest task look hard to solve, so don't be straining yourself too much. Make your list achievable and realistic. Even small wins, like writing a paragraph on your essay, or solving a simple math problem will draw you closer to success

4. Create a schedule.

High school student and undergraduates can easily become overwhelmed, and by creating the right schedule it helps them pace themselves and avoid burnout.

An important factor to keep in mind: no one can study a whole semester material in the one-night study. As per the researcher, Sean Kang who relates the effects cramming has on the studying process and students. 

Instead studying systematically over a long period during the school year or semester helps students retain more information and study better. A schedule plays a crucial role from a mental health perspective. Rather than drowning in a whole amount of semester material, planning before time provides better structure. 

5. Get enough sleep.

As per the research conducted during the 2019 study at MIT, researchers found out that those students who slept less than normal took lower grades compared with those students who slept longer.

The time of sleep is also important, those students who slept longer. The time of sleep is also important, those students who slept after 2 am, suffered more than those who slept earlier and sleep consistency matters as well. 

As per the research conducted by a number of scientists at NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information, students who had regular sleep hours every night had higher grades than their counterparts.

Psychiatry professor Robert Stickgold relates, "the overall course grades for students averaging six and a half hours of sleep were down 50% from other students who averaged just one hour more sleep."

6. Use healthy study techniques.

Whatever study techniques suit you, you may healthily apply them. It means approaching studying according to the right mindset. As per the research conducted by John M. Grohol Psy.D., at  PsychCentral explains, the way you approach your study matters as much as what you do. Think positive, forget catastrophic thoughts, avoid negative thinking and comparisons will help you develop the right mindset to learn new material. 

It also matters to pace yourself, take breaks to improve your focus and performance. As per the research from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, they found that students who used brakes had better focus and concentration. We must remember that a 10 minutes break would be beneficial, while longer and disruptive ones would only make us lie to ourselves and make things worse.

Psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains, "From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will help you stay focused on your task!"

7. Keep things in perspective and be kind to yourself. 

Final weeks make you go under a lot of pressure, but prepare yourself that you will go through such experiences in college as well. Instead of being hard on yourself to perform well, keep things in perspective. Finals are just another test, a fraction of your course grade. 

They may be all energy-consuming, but don't forget that you are only human with needs outside of exams week during the semester. Love and be kind to yourself, it would help you academically and improve your mental health. Deal with exams with self-compassion, don't judge and criticize yourself and practice self-kindness during exams week.

Personal experience dealing with exam stress

I started playing piano at 5, and for 13 years I had to play at concerts or competitions - where I had to perform well. But during the year 2004, I started to suffer from insomnia. I found myself in a highly stressful situation because it harmed my studies and exams, furthermore, I had to complete two degrees: an MSc in Biology and a BA in Events Management. 

I had two final exams to prepare for. I had plenty of time for the first, which was Biology, but after that, I had only 10 days for the second exam. It means that after resting from Biology for a month I had to make room in my brain for the new information. 

During my Events Management final exam, my mind became blank. For 10 minutes I was sitting with a blank paper, racing my heart and shaking legs... During that time I had no idea about relaxing techniques. I wanted to give back the exam paper and walk away, but I couldn't accept the fact that I would have. to study again for this exam at a later date. 

After 15 minutes of anguish mode, I managed to calm myself somehow, and the info came back into my brain. Only a fraction of that information was related to the topic and It was also hard to understand. When I had to present my topic, I succeeded to converse with my professor instead of having her listen while I was talking.

After I was done, I left the room trembling with no idea if I passed or not, while my friends were waiting to support each other. When we got back to the room for the results I found out I had the best possible mark. I was glad and extremely tired. Since then I still have no idea how I did it.

Since then I became an Autogenic Therapist, and Stress Management Consultant. Through the years I have practiced and learned about relaxation techniques.

How do I stop overthinking after exams? 

How do i stop overthinking about exams

It's the most normal thing to do coming out of an exam and discuss it with your friends, trying to check on for answers on the textbooks and internet forums. Avoid it completely, because it will only stress you even further. Once you've finished an exam, there is nothing you can change about it, so it's for your good to stop overthinking it and move on.  

To distract your mind from the hard exam you just took, do something you enjoy, whether it is going to retail therapy, a coffee with a friend, or any sports activity. It will lift you but don't forget the golden rule, don't talk about exams, they are important, but you still have a more important life. 

You will have more exams to do, and a bad one must not make you go off track for the rest of them. Dedicating your time and effort and doing revisions, will not only enable you to take your mind off the hard exam, but it will help you create a positive mindset. The chances are you have done better than you think, so it's not worth compromising the rest of your exams. Just be positive!


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