“Don’t stress.  Do your best.  Forget the rest.”
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Regardless of age, grade or abilities, everyone gets stressed about exams. Stress isn’t necessarily negative because it can motivate and inspire one into action, to knuckle down to studies, and get things done. But, too much stress can have the adverse effect, incapacitating one’s cognitive abilities to the extent of brain fog and overwhelm. It is imperative to put both the exams and stress levels into perspective, and not let either get out of control.  After all, there is life after the exams.

Today far too much pressure is exerted upon children to compete, and to win at all costs. Yes education is important but it’s not everything, least of all a ‘one size fits all’, hence the increasing popularity of home-schooling because children’s learning styles are different. Creativity, passion, beliefs, morals, ethics, values etc are equally important, if not more so. Many successful entrepreneurs were illiterate, dyslexic or school dropouts.

Granted parenting isn’t easy especially since children aren’t born with personal manuals. Moreover, each child’s personality is different from their siblings, making parenting challenging. Helping your children cope with tests or exams is challenging especially since you want them to excel but cannot do it for them. It’s well documented millennial parents have a tendency to overindulge and overprotect children, instead of equipping children with necessary life skills like thinking for themselves, taking responsibility, doing chores, discipline, routine, healthy habits and self-sustainability etc. This ethos directly relates to how well equipped children are at coping with life’s common and regularly occurring stressors like exams.

Life continually tests people, pushing their limits, making one dig deep, and if they don’t have the internal resolve, they buckle under the slightest pressure. Stress management skills begin at home where children adopt and emulate their parent’s habits, behaviour and ability to cope under pressure. As a parent, how do you handle your stress in pressured situations? Do you easily fly-off-the-handle or are you as cool as a cucumber?  Do you consistently panic, worry and become anxious when you’re stressed about life situations? Either way you are subtly instilling this behaviour into your child’s ability to cope with and handle stressful situations, like exams.

There’s the obvious question of how much pressure parents and teachers inadvertently exert upon children to achieve top grades. A fiercely competitive parent will naturally expect the same of their child. Some parents demand only the best, pushing their children, but never being satisfied with their achievements. Some insist upon sport and extra-murals so the child is kept busy throughout the day and over weekends with little freedom for rest or play, let alone enough time for studies. These pressures and stress can contribute towards a child’s poor confidence, low self esteem, burn-out, unhappiness, depression, eating disorders, smoking, drugs or alcohol dependencies etc – possible coping mechanisms to escape unpleasant stress, disappointment or unmet expectations. Children are especially vulnerable to stress. Assess how much stress is being unwittingly exerted upon your child. Can this be reduced? Strive for balance.

Not every child has the ability to be a winner and excel at school or on the sports field. Most children struggle under pressure because they aren’t adequately equipped. Are you expecting them to become something you are not or weren’t given the opportunity to have? Is your expectation realistic and fair?

Understandably job competition maybe stiff, but being able to regurgitate information like a parrot doesn’t make a child well balanced or better equipped to deal with life’s challenges. Education is only one aspect of a child, and parents directly shape a child’s personality and worldly perceptions. Parents have a responsibility to help children achieve a balanced reality. Perhaps reassess expectations, and communicate this to help your children adequately cope with exam stress. Everyone excels when they know someone believes in them. Parental love, support and encouragement to do one’s best is vital for reducing stress related issues.

Guaranteed, being prepared reduces stress. Preparation shouldn’t begin just as exam season commences. Consistent effort throughout the year is the best form of preparation, and helps identify subjects that require attention. This avoids last minute anxiety, overwhelm and panic.

Help your children cope effectively – Tips to Cope with Exam Stress:

  • Create a study plan or timetable, and stick to it
  • Organise all material and notes – helps maintain a clear, focused mindset
  • Repeatedly re-write notes neatly, until absolute confidence in the subject matter is attained
  • Make notes with diagrams or images to stimulate memory retention
  • Continually strive for progress, not perfection
  • Practise using past exam papers
  • Maintain a clean and clear study space – helps declutter the mind
  • Remove all distractions from study area – TV, radio, social media, cell phones
  • Reduce procrastination by continually taking action steps – this reduces stress
  • Take adequate breaks between studies
  • Regular exercise and fresh air stimulates memory, boosts mood and reduces stress
  • Drink plenty of still water – keeps the brain well hydrated and fully functional – coffee, tea and energy drinks are stimulants, which create adrenaline, increasing stress
  • Partake of healthy nutrition supporting mind and body during study periods and exam stress. Heavy meals are harder to digest, taking energy away from the brain, and making one feel lethargic and sleepy. Raw fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts are healthier and easily digestible
  • Avoid all sugar which leads to hyperactivity. Regrettably most manufactured food contains sugar as a preservative. Study food labels
  • Adequate and quality sleep is vitally important
  • Use positive affirmations and self talk to achieve better results – believe you can, and you’re halfway there
  • Use effective stress release techniques as shared in my book Stress Gone!
  • Above all, stay relaxed … simply do the very best you can.

Wishing your children success in their exams, and you peace of mind.  If necessary, seek professional help – I am your stress expert, let’s chat.

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