It’s that time of year again which reminds me of sunny days spent sweltering in the school hall, panicking about trying to remember French grammar and longing for the academic year to finally end. Yes, it’s the season for exam fever! A MORI survey was carried out in August 2018 on behalf of “The Key”- an organisation which provides leadership and management support to schools. Nearly a quarter of 11-16 year olds reported that exams and tests caused them more anxiety than any other part of being a young person. Their concerns included being overwhelmed by the workload, feeling under pressure from parents and worries about not achieving the grades they needed. So, what can we, as parents, do to support our young people?
Often the basic stuff that helps anyone who is feeling stressed gets forgotten. Remembering what most of us already know and taking appropriate action can really help. Keeping teenagers well fuelled up with a varied diet and avoiding too many sugary snacks will help to keep their blood sugar levels stable and prevent them from feeling “hangry”. We can all identify with the feeling of agitation which can be the result of our blood sugar “crashing” after too much sugar- it certainly doesn’t help if you’re already feeling overwhelmed! Keeping well-hydrated helps youngsters to focus better, as does taking regular exercise breaks and having a quiet space for study. It’s well documented that teenagers often don’t get enough sleep, but it’s important to try and maximise their potential for this by helping them to manage their screen time and not drink sugary or caffeinated drinks later in the day.
Good communication is key when helping teenagers manage their anxiety. Just reminding them that feeling stressed about exams is normal and understandable helps to give a sense of perspective. Practical support with preparation can support a young person to cope better. Remember, teenagers don’t have a fully developed adult brain yet- they may struggle with things that adults find quite straightforward! Don’t forget to praise their efforts too!