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Dealing with your child’s anxiety around exam time

08 Jul 2019

Anxiety around exams

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Tips for Exam Time

While assignments, exams and assessments are part and parcel of all formal schooling, for many While assignments, exams and assessments are part and parcel of all formal schooling, for many children they can be a massive cause of anxiety.

Our State of the Nation Parenting Survey found that parents believe their children are experiencing some degree of stress and concern towards assessments at every stage of schooling.

50% of parents with children between Years 9-10 thought their child felt at least a moderate amount of stress around school assessments. Unsurprisingly, this was significantly higher, at 59% among parents with older children between Years 11-13.

As parents, it can be hard to know what to do to help your child navigate these situations. So, how can you best support your child so they don’t feel overwhelmed come exam time?

  • Find little ways to alleviate other pressures on your child

When they’re already under the pump with study timetables, offering a little more flexibility on their household chores or state of their bedroom can make life that little bit easier – bearing in mind that it’s not forever, and the period will pass.

  • Keep an open dialogue about how they’re feeling

This will help you to not only keep across their general wellbeing, but also identify where you can provide actionable solutions for their stress. For example, if there’s a particular subject they’re struggling in, hire a tutor, or ask family and friends whether they can help out.

Remind your child that it’s normal to feel nervous or anxious, encourage them to focus on what they already know and build their confidence from there.

  • Maintain a balanced lifestyle and throw in something special

Children can often experience burn-out during this time, so ensure they’ve got a well-balanced diet, sleep routine (The Ministry of Health and Kids Health have some great tips on ways to improve your child’s sleep!) and enough free time built into their study schedule for those all-important “brain breaks”.

Throw in some rewards to keep them motivated - incentivise with some screen time or a midday outing. Rewards don’t have to be material or expensive, just something nice to break up their study schedule.

  • Be a role model – you might need to de-stress together!

You are your child’s biggest role model – so when you come home after a tough day of work, tell your children why you might be stressed to help them understand the situation, and then share your tips on how to manage it.

If you haven’t mastered a low-stress life yourself, it might be time to invest in some collective destressing activities such as practicing yoga, meditation or deep breathing.

  • Talk to teachers and other parents

Keep in touch with your child’s teachers and their friends’ parents so you can keep across how your child is managing in the school environment itself.

If they are struggling, have a chat with the school counsellor to see what support they’re able to provide.

  • Get professional help

There’s nothing to feel guilty or embarrassed about when seeking additional support – your child’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance. There are a number of organisations in New Zealand that can provide further advice and support:

  • Careers NZ have a number of articles with advice for both students and parents around NCEA, including one with tips to relieve study stress.
  • YouthLine provides a number of free resources for youth and anyone supporting youth, as well as a confidential and non-judgemental telephone counselling service. Call 0800 37 66 33 anytime or text 234 between 8am and midnight.
  • The Mental Health Foundation has a dedicated section for depression in youth. The site contains a lot of information regarding symptoms, support groups, brochures and helplines you can access.
  • Lifeline’s helpline and textline offers confidential support from qualified counsellors and volunteers. Call 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Rainbow Youth provide non-judgemental and accessible support around gender, sexuality and mental health. Call (09) 376 4155.
  • For those living in rural regions of the country, the Rural Support Trust Helpline offers support from other locals, who understand some of the unique pressures of living rurally. Call 0800 787 254
  • The Ministry of Health offers advice and provide a list of services you can access to help with any situation.

See more parenting guides here:

Want to see the full nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey results? Click here to find out more.