For kids, exams are a fact of life at this time of year. Some breeze through, even enjoying the challenge, but for others the story is very different.


The amount or quality of study doesn’t have much bearing on how children cope with the pressure of the big day. Some report stress and anxiety levels so high it makes their lives utterly miserable for a while.

Obviously studying properly and being prepared in advance are going to go a long way to help, but for most, it’s too late for that. And, in any case, nerves take no account of the amount of swotting.

If your exam candidate is buckling under the strain, here’s what you can do to help:

Be aware of the forms that stress can take and look out for them. If your teenager complains of aches and pains or is tireder or more grumpy than usual, there may be more going on than hormones.

Make sure they eat properly. Omega 3 fish oils are said to aid concentration, but really the bottom line is they need fuel for their minds, so breakfast is a must.

Tell them a good night’s sleep will help more than some late-night cramming.

Get as ready as possible the night before – have all the pens, pencils and lucky mascots ready to go.

Suggest that your child should avoid comparing notes with the other candidates. Anxiety is infectious and those who say “I haven’t done a thing” aren’t necessarily telling the truth. They may be more comfortable keeping themselves to themselves in the minutes before the exam.

Encourage them to exercise. Nothing destresses better than physical activity, so do some.

Teach your child some breathing techniques to use if they feel themselves getting panicky. Five slow and deliberate full inhalations and exhalations can make the world of difference.

After the exam, don’t let them get involved in post mortems. It’s done now and all the discussion in the world won’t change anything.

Give them a break before they start building up to the next exam.

Reassure them that, while this seems like the biggest deal ever, there is life after exams whatever way they go.

Mental health organisation Mind has some more detailed information on their website.

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