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Supporting someone through exams

Exams can be a difficult time for your whole family.

Children who experience stress may be irritable and not sleep well. They may lose interest in food. They may worry a lot and appear depressed or negative. Headaches and stomach pains can also be due to stress.

Having someone to talk to about their schoolwork can help. Support from a parent, tutor or a study-group friend can help children share their worries. Help them keep things in perspective.

If you feel your child is not coping, talk to their teachers at school.

Make sure your child eats well

A balanced diet is vital for your child's health and can help them to feel well during exam periods.

High-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine foods and drinks can make your child hyperactive. They may also make them irritable and moody.

Healthy eating

Help your child get enough sleep

Good sleep will improve thinking and concentration. Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.

Allow half an hour or so for kids to wind down between studying, watching TV or using a computer and going to bed. This will help them get a good night's sleep.

Cramming all night before an exam is usually a bad idea. Sleep will benefit your child far more than a few hours of anxious last-minute study.

Sleep problems - tips and self-help

Be flexible during exams

Parents need to be flexible around exam time. When your child is revising all day, do not worry about untidy bedrooms. You should not be hard on them for household jobs that are not done.

Staying calm yourself can help. Remember, exams do not last forever.

Help them to study

Help your child revise by making sure they have somewhere comfortable to study. Help them draw up a revision schedule or ask the school for one.

Talk about exam nerves

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. Being reminded of what they do know and the time they have put into study can help them feel confident.

Relaxation techniques and mindfulness can also help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Encourage physical activity during exams

Make sure your child is active. Physical activity can help boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress. Walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all effective.

Benefits of physical activity

Do not add to the pressure

Many children feel that the greatest pressure at exam time comes from their family.

Parents should keep things in perspective. Listen to your child, give support and avoid criticism.

Before they go in for a test or exam, be reassuring and positive. Make sure they know that failing is not the end of the world. Remind them that if things do not go well they may be able to take the exam again.

After each exam, encourage your child to talk it through with you. Then move on and focus on the next test. Avoid spending time talking about things that they cannot change.

Being a good listener

Make time for treats

When the exams are over, help your child celebrate by organising an end-of-exams treat.

Do not use rewards as bribes. Instead, encourage your child to work for their own satisfaction.

Managing exam stress

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025