Exam stress is reported to be the biggest contributor to suicides in the under 20’s. As children are now more intensively tested than ever before, it is of crucial importance to offer support and guidance during exam periods – find out more here.
Recently, it has been widely reported that exam stress may be the final straw for many of our young people who feel that suicide is their only way out. It’s therefore never been more important to offer support. Find out below what we can do to help as the responsible adults in our children’s lives.
Top 10 tips for supporting children suffering from exam stress
- Discuss the exam paper and ensure that they focus on just one question at a time – looking at the paper as a whole can be very overwhelming
- Encourage students to talk to their friends about how they deal with the stress of exams (a problem shared is a problem halved)
- Discuss the expectations your students have of themselves and ensure it’s realistic – reaching for unattainable goals will not help the situation
- Reduce pressure of chores/expectations at home during revision/exam periods and make sure there is access to a quiet study area
- Encourage (or even force) study breaks. This is important for reflection, consolidation and stress reduction during the build up to exams
- Discuss which exams are causing the most anxiety and help to revise these. Some revision games may help. For example, turning notes into question/answer cards and making a fun game out of learning the material
- Encourage balance – exercise breaks or focussing on something other than study will help to keep stress levels down – a few hours
doing something social after a long morning of study is likely to help rather than hinder revision efforts
- Encourage healthy eating and plenty of water. Energy drinks and high sugar snacks lead to highs and lows which will not help stress levels
- Ensure there is a clear plan on the day of the exam and plenty of time is allowed to find the location/use the bathroom etc.
- Make sure students know that they can talk to you – let them know when and how they can have a confidential chat to you if they are feeling overwhelmed
It is worth remembering that 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class. These children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) issues may be particularly susceptible to exam stress so parents and teachers should be vigilant in monitoring and support of these students during exam periods. It is also true that between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm – this can be a precursor to suicide so look out for signs of self-harming and seek the appropriate support if you feel that any of your students may be doing this.