How parents can help teenagers cope in the build up to exams

mother and son

As exam time gets closer, panic can set in and even the most organised student can give in to feelings of worry. In those final days before exams, there are ways to help them reduce their stress and put everything in perspective.

Try these tips to help your teenager cope with exams:

Remind them to take a deep breath – and focus

Distractions often come in waves.

We’ve all experienced that urge to clean up, or organise something, when there is an important deadline to meet. But that’s just a form of procrastination and your teenager experiences it too.

Luckily, the urges usually only last for a little while.

To help your teenager work through them, remind them to pause, take a deep breath, and recognise what is happening – that by switching their focus to something else that’s unrelated to study, they are giving in to distraction.

Tell them this technique can help: Close your eyes. Breathe in for two seconds, then breathe out for two seconds. If the urge persists, repeat until it goes away.

By trying this, they’ll spend a few seconds every now and then, taking a calming breath and restoring their focus. The alternative is allowing themselves to get distracted for several minutes – and even longer – and wasting valuable study time. Try our own ReachOut app, Breathe here.

Create free time that’s fun

All work and no play really can be dull and when faced with weeks of exam preparation, finding free time that is genuinely fun helps create a healthy balance. Working hard for a set period and then being rewarded with free time that lets them forget their studies is a great way for your teenager to deal with their stressful workload. It doesn’t have to be a long time – but even 20 minutes spent doing something they really love can make a huge difference in their mood and give them the emotional strength to head back into another study session with a smile.

Avoid multitasking

In today’s busy world, the ability to multitask is often seen as a benefit but for truly focused learning, it’s best avoided.

The pressure that time is running out can seem overwhelming, especially as exams get closer, but by encouraging them to focus on just one subject at a time, you’ll be helping them absorb information more easily – and retain it – as well as helping feel less rushed and overloaded.

Respect their privacy

It’s great that you’re there to help them but it’s also important to realise that, sometimes, your good intentions can be distracting too.

Before your teen begin their study session, remind everyone else in the house that they need to study – and that they need privacy. That goes for you, too. Asking your teen what they want for lunch, or talking to them about that outfit they need to find for their cousin’s wedding can wait – and so can your nagging to clean up their room and make their bed.

When you make such a genuine effort to ask others to respect their privacy, you’re reminding your teenager that you appreciate their commitment to achieving their study goals – something that makes them feel valued and taken seriously.

Minimise sleep deprivation

When teenagers are sleep-deprived, they will also be easily distracted and more prone to emotional outbursts.

In the final days before exam time, it’s important to help them find a healthy sleep routine.

Some suggestions for better sleep include:

  • no caffeine after 3pm

  • setting a nightly alarm to signal it’s time to stop studying and sleep

  • winding down with a few pages of a book

  • listening to some calming music

  • making time for a warm bath or shower, with a lavender candle burning in the bathroom.

Being organised

Feeling overwhelmed or worried about the actual logistics of the exam time can de a huge distraction. To help put your teen’s mind at ease, create an exam timetable that everyone can see. Make it clear to them who is on hand to help them get to school that day to make them feel confident that their timetable can be met and they will be on time for each exam. With that worry out of the way, they can focus on study.

For parents doing their best to minimise the stress teenagers feel when they are preparing for exams, it’s important to remember that there is no magic potion. Even in the most organised household, tempers will fray and voices might become raised. It will pass. Just do your best to offer support and look for that light at the end of the tunnel. It will get closer every day…