For many students in secondary school and university, anxiety and stress can become a growing obstacle to their health and happiness.
As school sessions come to a close, end of term tests and exams can become a huge source of fear and worry that can have a large impact on a student’s psyche.
As a parent or guardian of primary, secondary or university students, you may notice signs in your child of increased stress leading up to tests and formal exams. This may be evidenced by subtle mood swings, reduced appetite, sleeping problems, back-chatting, crying, panic, aggression or decreased motivation.
Here are five tips to help reduce your child’s increasing stress at exam time.
1. Establish an Appropriate Study Spot
Location is key when it comes to studying, and what works for one child might not work for another. A young person might find comfort in the solitude of studying alone in their bedroom. An alternative might be the ambience of the community or campus library, providing a physical distinction between home, school and social settings. The study spot needs to enable focus, concentration and an atmosphere for the student to absorb learning material. Certain people also find it helpful to study in group environments in order to break up work and bounce ideas off others.
2. Know What to Study
Minimise panic and non-value downtime by promoting an organised workspace and logically aligning exam preparation in line with the depth of material, how much time it takes to gain confidence in one’s knowledge, and the exam date. A methodical approach to exam preparation can mitigate “busy work” and procrastination.
There is a difference between regular homework and exam preparation. Many students don’t understand the difference and fall into the trap of broadly reviewing the term’s homework rather than focusing on the curriculum that will be examined. Make sure the exam study effort is directly aligned to what is going to be tested.
3. Dedicate a Set Time Each Day
Formal assessments require a concentrated effort before, during and after the exam. Creating a calendar to illustrate at a glance daily study times, exam blocks, travel time and filing the completed study papers creates a rhythm and cadence for a student to follow. Methods to shut out that inner voice saying “What am I doing, what next?” can be softened with a routine, and guides such as a study calendar can assist the young person to feel autonomous over the study process.
4. Rest, Activity and Sleep
Following on from the study and exam calendar, included in this structure should also be time for rest, non-study related activity and sleep. As a parent, you can help reduce your child’s mental, physical and emotional exhaustion when he or she is under pressure to perform well. Going for a walk, continuing sport activities, reading a book or watching a movie can provide a positive release of built up stress. With all the energy dissipating during exam time, ensuring healthy eating practices is essential too. Lower the intake of carbs, sugar, caffeine and aim for more proteins, and fresh vegetables and fruit, to optimise concentration and general wellbeing.
5. Ask a Professional
Sometimes the worry of observing your child in a state of exam panic goes beyond what you can personally influence. Every child and adolescent is different, and so how they demonstrate their anxiousness and worry can overflow into the family unit.
At Strategic Psychology, we help family units and children develop coping strategies that can be applicable at exam time. Children, teenagers and young adults with persistent and unwavering worry may lead to long-lasting mental health problems.
You can seek support from your local doctor to discuss your concerns and ask your GP to complete a Mental Health Care Plan assessment form. If you are eligible then you can call on professional psychological services and receive a Medicare rebate.
Call 02 6262 6157 if you need to speak with a psychologist today or secure an appointment within seven days.