10 ways to beat exam stress for your teen (and yourself!)

If you’ve got a teenager taking high school exams, you don’t need us to tell you they’re stressed. But it can be a tough time for parents too, especially if you want to take some pressure off your kids but don’t know how.

Don’t panic: help is at hand. Here are our 10 top tips to lower their anxiety (and yours).

  1. Start the conversation. While your teen might not be very talkative during exam time, it’s important to keep the communication lines open. Check in to see how they’re feeling about study and life in general. Sometimes, just letting them know you’re there is enough to alleviate their nerves.
  2. Help them set up a productive area. If they don’t have a dedicated study room, find them a quiet spot with minimal distractions. Ensure it’s bright and not too cluttered – clear space, clear mind.
  3. Encourage breaks. Let them know it’s okay to take time out to see friends or do something they enjoy. Consider giving them time off chores or non-urgent family commitments during exam season.
  4. Be constructive and positive. Plenty of encouragement will make them feel more positive about exams. Let them know how proud you are, regardless of the outcome. You’d be surprised how effective positive reinforcement can be.
  5. Encourage healthy sleeping and eating patterns. Teens are often tempted to stay up late studying, but sleep is essential (the recommendation is eight to 10 hours a night). Motivate them to eat regularly and include foods that are good for the brain and blood-sugar levels – fresh fruit, veggies, grains, nuts and protein.
  6. Get them to ask questions. Reassure them that it’s okay to ask for help if they need clarity or are unsure about something. They can start with their teacher, or perhaps a guidance counsellor.
  7. Help them know what to expect. Encourage your teen to find out what each exam involves. Consult the syllabus and course outlines; are there past test papers they can read to get an idea of what’s coming up?
  8. Get them there on time. Avoid rushing on exam day by organising and packing everything the night before. Be sure to leave home with plenty of time in case traffic is heavier than usual.
  9. Listen to their concerns afterwards. If your teen feels they didn’t do so well, reassure them there are other options and that passing an exam is only one part of their story. Discuss any problems so they can feel better prepared for next time.
  10. Know when to seek professional help. If exam stress is paralysing your teen, don’t hesitate to consult your local doctor, a school counsellor or a psychologist.

Is your teen anxious about what to study at uni? There’s no need to panic – our friendly Future Students team is available to talk through the options. Phone us on 131 UWA (892) or email future-students@uwa.edu.au.

And if your teen needs further advice or support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for a sympathetic ear, 24/7.