In recent years, exam-related pressure has increased to the point that many children are experiencing overwhelming nerves and stress symptoms when facing up to their SATs or GCSEs, not to mention A-levels and university. In 2017 Childline reported a massive increase in the number of children asking for counselling sessions from the service to cope with exam-related symptoms including depression and anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts. So how can you help your young one deal with all of that?
Here at UKMums.TV we thought it would be good to round up some really practical tips to help parents of children any age who are suffering with nerves and stress related to exams.
Spot the signs – the NHS has a brilliant web page listing the common symptoms of stress in children, many of which could be mistaken for physical illnesses or ‘excuses’ to get out of school! For example, headaches, stomach pains, poor sleep or lack of interest in activities they normally enjoy.
Time to talk – It’s hard drawing out stressed, irritable kids but don’t give up trying to talk to them about their feelings. The NHS advises: “Remind your child that feeling anxious is normal. Nervousness is a natural reaction to exams. The key is to put these nerves to positive use.”
Peer support – If you think advice from peers would work better than mum and dad nagging(!) try introducing them to YoungMinds, a great website full of advice straight from young people themselves. Start with this blog about self-care during exam time.
Practical support– There are a number of ‘basics’ that can really help your child:
- Make sure they get plenty of sleep and eat healthily.
- Provide a comfortable space for them to revise in, or if that’s not possible try the local library or after-school club.
- Schedule small and frequent rewards for the effort they are putting in.
- Be calm, positive and reassuring and put the whole thing into perspective.
When to seek help – Talk to your child’s teacher or school nurse if you have ANY concerns about your child’s wellbeing. If your child is feeling suicidal or has pre-existing mental health conditions you may need an emergency appointment with your GP who can refer you to the appropriate services.
Quick links to more help
- For general advice and support, either online or over the phone, check out these handy quick links:
- The Mix is the UK’s leading support service for young people. You can talk to them via online, social or a free, confidential helpline.
- Family Lives is a great one stop advice shop for parents on a multitude of topics ] from experts and parents who’ve been through it themselves, including how to deal with exam stress.
- BBC Bitesize – as well as detailed support for the different topics studied at school from age 5 – 16, this website has some great videos children can watch for advice on coping with exam stress, revision and much more.Childline has a whole section dedicated to exam stress on its website and don’t forget children can call their confidential, free helpline (0800 11 11) whenever they need to for one-to-one help.
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments or share with us on social media – we’d love to hear your real life solutions to handling stressed and nervous kids.