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How To Help Your Child Beat Exam Stress

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

A stressed teenager sat  face down at a desk and surrounded by books

Exam season can be a very challenging time for students and their families and it's natural that they will feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Understandably, as a parent, you may be very worried about the effects of this anxiety on their mental health and may be wondering what you can do to support them.

In this article, I will explain how to help your child beat exam stress and ensure they navigate this difficult time with confidence.

Stay positive

A positive attitude can go a long way in helping your teenager cope with exam stress. Offer words of support, encourage them to focus on their strengths, remind them of their past successes and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.

Anxiety and stress can cause everyone to feel on edge and less patient than usual but, where possible, try and avoid nagging or criticising your child for minor issues as this will help to create a calm and peaceful environment.

Help them to create a study routine

Encourage your teenager to stay focused and avoid any last minute cramming by helping them to establish and maintain a routine which incorporates regular study sessions and breaks.

They might have already created a revision timetable by working out how many days they had left until each exam and writing down their known commitments and which subjects and topics they would revise each day. Find out if this timetable is working and, if not, adjust it as necessary.

However, if they didn't create a revision timetable in advance, it's not too late. Help them to decide which topics / subjects they feel are their weakest, such as a specific poem from the Anthology, and prioritise these for revision. Planning to revise their weakest topics first will help them feel more prepared and more confident which, in turn, will help them to feel less anxious and overwhelmed.

A stressed female student looking at books with her head in her hands

Ensure your teenager takes regular breaks from their revision

As the exams get closer, your child may feel that they need to make the most of the time they have left and might be tempted to revise for hours on end.

However, most professionals recommend that students should actively revise for around 45 mins - 1 hour and then take a brief break as this will give them a chance to rest

and process the information they have learned.

Provide emotional support

As much as teenagers may believe that they're all grown up, are fully independent and can do everything themselves, everyone needs someone to talk to when things get tough.

A mum comforting a stressed teenager

Whether they admit it or not, all teenagers will sometimes feel overwhelmed by exam pressure so you need to remind them that, as their parent, you are there to support them.

Sit down with them and explain that you will listen to what they have to say, that you understand their concerns and will help them to come up with some coping strategies.

If they won't talk to you, tell you that they're "fine" or even shout and storm off, leave them alone for a while...but keep persevering. They WILL appreciate your efforts - even if they don't show it.

Plate of healthy fruit, eggs and fish

Encourage good habits

Nobody can perform to the best of their ability if they are not eating regular meals, relying too much on junk food or caffeine or are not getting enough sleep.

It might be tempting to drink too much caffeine the night before an exam in order to stay up late and maximise revision time, but it really won't help as much as a healthy evening meal, a relaxing bath and a decent night's sleep.

Ensure that your teenager is getting plenty of rest and that they are not skipping meals. Ideally, they should be eating a healthy diet, including fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts as this will boost their exam performance but, more importantly, improve their overall health and well-being.

Avoid comparisons

Many of my past students have told me that their main concerns about the GCSE exams are that they will not get the grades they need for college and will embarrass themselves and disappoint their family. However, some of them are also worried that they won't achieve the same academic success as their siblings, parents, cousins or friends and this fear of comparison adds extra pressure.

Remind your teenager of their own strengths, offer praise and encouragement for their efforts and progress so far and, above all, avoid comparing them to anyone - especially their siblings or peers. Ensure they understand that you are (and always will be) proud of them - whatever their exam results.

A female student getting some exam help from a female tutor

Find them some extra help.

If your child is struggling with revision because they have missed several lessons or do not understand a topic, it might be worth getting them a revision guide. You could work through it with them by testing them on key topic or encouraging them to complete some practice questions and using the the answers at the back to help you to mark it.

Alternatively, you might like to consider investing in a private tutor. At English Home Studies, I provide personalised, 1:1 tuition programmes, plus one off revision sessions, which can help to answer last minute questions, close any gaps in your child's learning, develop exam technique, build confidence and, overall, reduce their stress.

Seek professional help

Whilst exam results are important, your child's mental health and wellbeing always comes first so, if your teenager seems unusually stressed and you are worried about them, don't hesitate to seek professional advice and support. Their school may have a trained member of staff to offer valuable support and guidance or they may be able to recommend a trained counsellor, therapist or mental health professional.

Private English tutor and founder of English Home Studies

About the Author

I’m a private tutor, a former qualified and experienced secondary school English Teacher and the founder of English Home Studies. In addition to offering 1:1 tuition sessions for students from 9 - 16 years old (Year 5 - Year 11), I create digital and printable revision guides and activity packs.

I often post advice and links to free and affordable English resources on the English Home Studies Facebook and Instagram pages but, if you have a child in KS3 or KS4, you might like to join one of my Facebook groups:

If you would like to find out more about my qualifications and experience, read some of the lovely reviews I've received from previous clients or have any questions, please have a look around my website or send me a message. Many thanks.

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