With so many of us supporting our children through exams this month – SATs, end of year exams, GCSEs and A-levels – the feeling of panic is inevitable. With so much hard work and focus over the months and years, to suddenly face the exams can be overwhelming and, for some, terrifying.
If your child is experiencing pre-exam anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help.
- Help them regain perspective
When we are in the thick of revision, it’s so hard to step back and see the bigger picture. It can feel as though our entire future is dependent upon the results of the coming days and that feeling can, perversely, have a negative effect on our performance. Help her to see these exams within the bigger picture of her life. Yes, they are an important stepping-stone but they are just that – one step on her journey. One helpful activity can be to answer those ‘What if’ questions. Removing that uncertainty can lower the feeling of panic. Only you can judge whether this is right for your child but having a realistic view on choices available to her, whatever the outcome, can significantly lower that feeling of anxiety.
There aren’t many people who can honestly say they are immune to their parents’ views. Even when we are parents ourselves, many of us still hope for that nod of approval. For your teenager, this need for approval can be huge. They may feel pressure to prove themselves to you. They may worry about what you will say or think of them, if they don’t achieve the grades that are expected. Reassuring them that you are proud of their focus and effort, whatever the outcome, can be hugely important.
- Remind her to avoid negative chatter
Before leaving the house, it’s worth reminding them to be mindful of who they wait with before the exam. It’s natural that everyone will be feeling a certain degree of anxiety but it can really add to the level of panic, when we find ourselves caught up with negative chatter. We all know that one person that manages to whip us up into a state of irritation or anxiety. Moving away from that negative chatter can avoid your teen stepping into the exam hall feeling unnecessarily anxious.
- Practise deep breathing
Now, of course, there isn’t time to close our eyes and carry out a meditation in the exam hall but taking a few slow breaths can do wonders to calm the nerves. Help your teen to practise taking a few slow breaths in and out. Whilst doing this, it can really help to say an affirmation such as ‘I am calm and ready’ on each ‘in’ breath (in your head, not aloud!). Wiggling the fingers can also have a calming effect and, again, this can be done whilst taking some slow breaths. Practising this at home will make it so much easier for her to do on the day. No-one need know they are doing it but it will make such a difference!