Dealing with exam stress

We look at one thing that can help kids cope with exams: resilience. What is it though and how can you build resilience in your children? Read on to find out!

Exams can bring out the best and worst in all of us. The anticipation and preparation can give way to information overload and stress. And it can be hard for parents to stand by and watch their children deal with the pressure of exam stress. 

Our kids are placed under great pressure these days; the pressure to succeed, and the pressure to achieve and get ahead in life. It can be tough to cope for everyone in the family. But despite such school stress, there are some students who manage to get through, and even thrive during exam time. And it’s largely due to one key skill: resilience.

Resilience is our ability to manage and overcome difficult times. It’s how we ‘bounce back’. Resilience is an important skill that children need to learn, it’s not always something that we just ‘have’. Tough times in life are going to happen, but it’s how we deal with those tough times that can shape our development and where we head. When it comes to exam stress, resilience is vital in helping your child to prepare, cope and work at their best effort.

If you are concerned that your child’s stress is over and above what you would expect for the situation, or if you are noticing other issues, such as withdrawal from others, excessive teariness, loss of self-worth, or thoughts of self-harm, then it’s important to visit your GP who can point you in the direction of further support.

Here are six ways you can help support your child to build their resilience during exam time include:

1. Normalise

Stress is a common feeling, and it happens to the best of us. It’s important that we help our children understand that: they’re not alone; some worries are normal; and that a little bit of stress can be helpful, as it can help motivate us to put some effort in. 

2. Keep calm

Work with your child to practice calm breathing techniques, and try a bit of mindfulness each day. Apps like Smiling Mind can be handy to settle the stress and help them to feel more able to tackle the test.

3. Break tasks down

Breaking exam preparation down into smaller, manageable chunks can help students feel more capable and in control. Cramming the night before an exam is a sure-fire way to send resilience running for the hills!

4. Balance out self-talk

What we say to ourselves can have a big impact on how we feel, and how we behave. During exams, students can often become overwhelmed, almost convincing themselves they will fail. 

Supporting your child to recognise when they’re having ‘not-so-helpful thoughts’, and how to gently challenge and balance them out. This can help empower your child to handle most things that comes their way, which is a big factor in learning how to bounce back from exam stress.

5. Mistakes are good!

This is key in resilience. Seeing that when something doesn’t quite go the way you had hoped, that it’s not always a bad thing. When it comes to exams, it’s important for your child to understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world, they are an opportunity to learn and grow. We all make mistakes, it’s what we do with them that helps us to keep moving forward.

6. Build a support network

A big part of bouncing back is knowing you have a support network around you to help you through the tough times. Resilience is a team effort, and during times of school stress, children and teens can feel more able to cope with a support team in mind.

Back to top