The first step in helping your child cope with exam stress and anxiety is to identify it. Some children mask their stress quite effectively, leaving their parents with no idea that they are stressed out at all.
There are various signs and symptoms of stress that you might spot in your child. This includes behavioural changes such as acting out, mood swings, becoming withdrawn or poor concentration. Stress can also manifest itself physically such as headaches, stomach aches and even eczema flare-ups for those who have allergies.
It is important to remember that every child is unique, and will react to stress differently. Take the time to observe your child closely, and identify the symptoms and behavioural changes when they experience stress.
Provide Coping Mechanisms For Exam Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life. The true problem is when a child does not have the knowledge or skills to manage it well. The good news is that you can equip your child with coping tools that will be especially useful in the upcoming exam period:
- Fit some form of physical exercise into your child’s daily routine, and keep to it even during the hectic exam period. Research has shown that exercise helps to lessen anxiety, lift one’s mood, and increase energy levels.
- Introduce your child to journaling. Do you notice your child becoming quieter and more withdrawn when stressed? Sometimes a child may be unwilling to open up to you about their fears and worries. Encourage them to write it down in a private diary instead. This will give them an outlet for their stress, and also help them to gain a different perspective on the situation upon reflection.
- Create a soothing bedtime routine to ensure restful sleep for your child. Often, a child’s anxious thoughts can follow them even when they go to bed. However, poor sleep affects cognitive function and creates more stress. Avoid this vicious cycle by creating a relaxing atmosphere that your child can look forward to after a long day of revision.
Did you know that making mistakes and struggling with hard tasks make the neural connections in the brain form and strengthen? Simply put, minds are sharpened when they grapple with challenging tasks and even fail. However, in our society where achievement and success are highly prized, children naturally feel the pressure to perform. They often have a fear of failure – the chief cause of exam-related stress.
As parents, you will need to take intentional steps to assure your children that failure is an essential part of the learning process, and not something to be avoided or feared. Emphasize effort over achievement with your child. Praise and reward them when they attempt difficult tasks, such as opting to work on harder sums and questions in their revision work, and not just when they get an A on their report cards.
Practicing these simple yet effective measures can help alleviate your child’s stress and anxiety, and just as importantly, deepen your parent-child bond that will enrich your relationship long after the exams are over.
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