How to recognise if your teenager is not coping with exam stress

How to recognise if your teenager is not coping with exam stressHow to recognise if your teenager is not coping with exam stress

Like it or not, exams are a necessity of life. They provide us with a means to measure student progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, and for Year 12 students form the basis of measuring academic outcomes for tertiary entrance.

Exams also provide opportunities for student growth, help children to set and work towards goals and build resilience. The conclusion that one must reach is that exams are important, but with this importance comes a pressure to perform. This pressure can have positive effects, as a certain amount of pressure is helpful for encouraging study and effort. However too much pressure can become stressful and be detrimental to mental wellbeing.

As a parent there are few things more important than supporting your child’s education. Striking the right balance between support and challenge is key. You don’t want to become the reason for your child’s stress or anxiety.

So, why do students stress about exams? Put simply, exams have consequences. Some common reasons students experience exam related stress are:

  • being scared of failure
  • feeling the need to better their friends’ scores
  • feeling too much pressure from you, their parents
  • worrying they won’t be accepted into their chosen tertiary education institute
  • struggling with the content
  • procrastinating study.

The symptoms of exam stress are usually quite obvious, but linking the symptoms to their cause (exams) can be more difficult. Sometimes the symptoms can be linked to other problems. Talking with your teenager is often one of the best ways to clarify the cause of your teenager’s stress. If exams are fast approaching and your teenager is getting increasingly stressed, that’s an obvious sign that they are not dealing with the exam pressure well.

Here are some common indicators that your teenager is not coping with exam stress:

  1. Trouble sleeping
    Anxiety and stress of any kind can lead to trouble falling asleep and result in a lower quality of sleep. It is no wonder that the term ‘losing sleep’ over something is synonymous with being stressed or worried.
  2. Skin breakouts
    Stress increases the production of natural oils in our skin which can clog pores and cause acne.
  3. Irrational anger or frustration
    It is common for students stressed about exams to become quick to anger or easily frustrated. Your teenager might become uncharacteristically snappy or rude.
  4. Negative outlook on the future
    When your world is revolving around exams and it’s not looking particularly bright, it can be hard to have a positive outlook on life. It can feel like your entire education/life has been leading to this point so it is understandable that the future can seem bleak in the midst of exam pressures and stress.
  5. Losing touch with friends
    This can be both a cause and symptom of stress. Having friends and family close by is important for morale and support in difficult times.
  6. Inability to sit still or be calm
    If your teenager is struggling to relax, be still or remain calm, this could be an indicator of exam stress. Another possible reason for this could be that they are consuming too much caffeine, which is a common problem around exam time.
  7. Feeling sick or nauseated
    In more extreme situations of stress, it is plausible that your teenager will feel nauseous or sick. This is not a common problem but being nervous can sometimes be mistaken for feeling ill.

With these common symptoms in mind, you will be ready to be there for your teen when the pressure hits, so they can perform to the best of their ability come exam time. EACS also offers effective study skills advice to students and parents through our Elevate study skills programme.

If you’d like to know how you can help your teenager deal with exam stress, be on the lookout for our next blog post, 6 ways to help your teenager deal with exam stress. To find out more about EACS, sign up to our newsletter.

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