How to help your child manage exam stress

Is your child preparing for exams? Find out how you can support them and help them to do their best – without adding extra pressure. 

If your child is currently taking exams or preparing for them, you’ll naturally want to encourage them to do well, without adding on extra pressure. But what’s the best way to achieve this?

Carey Ann Dodah, Director of Curriculum Strategy at leading extra tuition provider Explore Learning, shares her tips for helping you to manage your child’s test-related stress, and encouraging them to do their best.

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Celebrate the effort

One of the main contributors to exam season stress is the fear that by not succeeding your child will be letting you down. This worry and anxiety can manifest itself and become a serious distraction for children, which can have a negative impact on their performance.

A good way of avoiding this kind of worry is to focusing on the effort and practise that your child is doing. Celebrate the successes they achieve during their focused practise revision, and emphasise if they get stuck on something that they can’t do it yet.

Let them know how proud you are of the progress they are making, too. This encourages children to work as hard as they can in preparation, but doesn’t overwhelm them with talk of the end results.

Exams are just a chance for the children to show off how much they know. If we talk about that then some of the pressure of the exam day itself will be lifted.

Avoid clashing

Often, with a child under pressure and a parent wanting the absolute best for them, tempers can flare and arguments can result!

If you feel your child isn’t doing enough, it’s often because they feel lost and don’t know where to start. So help them to break everything into very small tasks so they can start seeing small successes and boost confidence.

Try to avoid using accusatory, overly-critical language like, “If you don’t work harder, you are going to fail” too. Instead, ask questions that help encourage your child to see the problem by themselves, such as:

  • “How is your revision going?”
  • “What are your tricky spots?”
  • “If you have 30 minutes to look at something today what do you think would make the most difference?”

Be prepared

There is a chance that, however well they prepare, your child will be disappointed with their exam results. And if this happens, it is important for you to be supportive.

Remind them that there are always options, and whether your child achieves well or poorly, there are plenty of positive paths still open to them. Sit with your child and discuss these options together. It could involve a different school/college/university, or it could be looking in to the possibility of re-takes. Research is important at this stage, but remember there are always options!

Take time off

Sometimes, if tension is building or your child is starting to feel the strain a little too much, the best thing to do can be to take a step away from the exam preparation for a while.

Find something relaxing and enjoyable to do and completely forget about exam preparation. However if there is a timetable in place, make sure that it is still possible to cover everything in time.

Read more parenting tips

You’ll find more advice on helping your child succeed in their studies (and stay sane yourself!) in these articles:

Explore Learning offers exam preparation courses such as the 11+ and Entrance Exams courses. Find out more here.