5 ways parents can help teenagers study for exams

2 school boys laughing

Preparing for exams can be stressful – and not just for your teenager, but for every member of the family. To help create a positive environment, there are practical ways you can help your teenager feel ready for their exams – and minimise the tension in your household.

1. Focus on the basics

Effective study is almost impossible without the basics taken care of first. Being well-fed, hydrated and well-rested is a solid foundation for study success and without these important ingredients, your child’s brain will find it hard to work at full capacity.

You can do your bit by providing a home environment that is organised, clean, calm, and quiet – with a well-stocked fridge and pantry cupboard filled with healthy, nutritious snacks. Aim to keep mealtimes regular to help them create a routine they can rely on.

As exams get closer, focus on offering smaller, lighter meals throughout the day to help boost their energy, without feeling sluggish. By giving them the tools to study more effectively, they can cope with study sessions better – and that means more effective study, with better outcomes. This video shows just how important food is to teens who are studying.

2. Create study goals (and prioritise)

When the going gets tough, it’s natural to take the path of least resistance. For your teenager facing a range of subjects, it’s helpful to direct them to tackle the most difficult subjects at the start of their session, when their ability to concentrate is at its best.

By prioritising all the tasks that demand a high level of focus and creativity, they’ll have a better chance of dealing with them before their energy gets sapped.

Setting study goals is a positive way to work through any study session. Instead of reading four chapters of a text book in one stint, and risking information overload, encourage them to break down their study into smaller chunks. Focusing on one chapter and devoting all their attention to it for an allocated time period will give them a better chance of retaining the information.

When that goal is reached, encourage a break – a walk around the block, a few minutes shooting hoops, some yoga or stretches, a refreshing shower, or some other quick activity that gets them away from their desk and gets them moving for a few minutes.

There are handy project-management apps that your teenager may benefit from using to outline and prioritise study tasks. Talk to them about what’s on offer and how it might help them to see if it’s right for them. Try showing them these 5 steps to study success that our youth service came up with.

3. Identify exam stress early

Be aware of the warning signs that could indicate stress in your teenager.

Some common stress signs include:

  • interrupted sleep

  • erratic eating habits

  • low confidence

  • increased frustration or anger

  • headaches, eczema, skin break-outs.

If you notice your teenager suffering from any of the above, check through the study preparation basics to see what you can help with. If their health is compromised, find out how a GP can help with stress.

4. Communicate

Ask your teen how their revision is going and if there is anything you can help them with. Even a simple conversation at the end of the day and sharing some positive feedback about what they have achieved can be a big boost and help them feel less alone.

Don’t feel bad if they don’t want to talk. It’s not personal. Making them feel bad about not opening up to you will only add to their stress, not reduce it.

5. Look after yourself and be positive (and resilient)

You might have lots going on in your own life but trying to maintain an environment of positive support is important for your child’s study success. If you’re facing your own worries with work or personal issues, make sure you have a great friend to talk to – confiding in your teenager at this time about all the tricky situations that might be going on in your office or extended family will not help them focus on their study in a positive way.

Looking after yourself is one of the best things you can do to help look after your teenager. There will be times they feel down and stressed and may take it out on you. By making sure your own emotional health is in good shape, you’ll be less likely to fly off the handle and better able to cope with their mood swings.

Exam preparation time is a busy one – and it can be emotionally challenging. It’s important to remember that it does come to an end. Be as supportive as you can and remind other members of the household to help out in whatever ways they can too – assigning other siblings some extra household chores can go a long way to creating a more organised, calm household that helps everyone cope with the increase in stress levels.