Parents expect a lot from their children and therefore pressurise them to perform well in exams. However, keeping high expectations and pressurising children during exams can cause exam stress in them. Read on to know more about the causes of exam stress in children.
It is natural for children who are preparing for exams to be under pressure. This pressure gets translated into bouts of anxiety that leads to nervousness which works in combination and is commonly referred to as exam stress.
A certain amount of stress is rather considered to be effective and beneficial as it leads to alertness and careful behaviour in terms of revision of overlooked chapters before the exams. It thus helps children in adequate preparations but when it spirals out of control, it can have disastrous effects on them. It might lead to poor performance.
In order to determine whether the exam stress is beneficial or not or whether stress has reached dangerous proportions in your child, it is advisable to ponder on the causes of stress in children. This will help you take careful and timely decisions.
This is by far the most common and relative reason that causes exam pressure in children. If your child is underprepared, he or she will obviously be unsure about his or her performance. If any part of the study material is left uncovered, feelings of anxiety is natural. Further, last minute studying also enhances this anxiety factor. Children who do not follow a proper diet schedule and do not have enough sleep also feel stressed out during their exams.
It is important to make sure that your child begins his or her preparations well before exams and do not wait till the last moment. A hurried last minute study does not register well in the memory and the self-confidence drops, thereby raising the anxiety levels. Further, when the body is not experiencing a smooth metabolic functioning, like poor dietary habits or lack of sleep, it tends to get overworked and the focuses away from the exams.
Pressure from Family
Often we come across children feeling bogged down due to the pressure of expectations from their immediate family members. There is an unfortunate tendency in some parents to fulfill their dreams through their kids and in the process they fail to realise that they are exerting undue pressure on the young minds at a very tender age. The children are made to understand that they are required to attain good grades whatever it may. This enhances the exam stress.
Then there is another type of pressure where the parents persistently compare their grades with those of their peers. This is also an undesired practice. Each student is an individual and it should be respected. This is also a fact that a healthy competition must always be encouraged. But the practice of comparing the grades and asking the kid that in spite of going to the same school and attending the same tuition classes, how can they lag behind their peers. So the fear of comparison raises the anxiety levels further.
Pressure from Within
This refers to the pressure that gets built up in the minds of the kids due to their own thoughts and beliefs. There is a belief that grows in the minds of the children that they are required to perform well consistently in order to be judged as a good student. This is something that is imbibed in the kid since their early childhood. So as the child grows up and prepares for the exams, the kid is under a constant pressure that he needs to maintain his grades and be at his very best at all the exams. Very often they imagine an adverse reaction from their parents or âfall of graceâ in the eyes of their teachers and peers and bog himself down with pressure to perform.
It is not long until schools, colleges and universities across Scotland will put up their ‘Quiet! Exam in Progress’ signs. And with it comes the inevitable exam stress and worry.
To help you cope with pre-exam nerves, The Spark has prepared some top tips. We work in Scottish schools providing courses on how to cope with exam stress and nerves so you can be sure we know a thing or two about getting through exam season. Here are our top 4 tips for coping with exam stress.
Exam stress tips #1: exam stress is totally normal
Feeling a degree of stress and nerves about exams is a completely normal reaction. Exams are an important step in your life and you want to do your best. But keep in mind that you are not alone or ‘flaky’ or ‘weak’ for feeling this way.
Every person has a different tolerance for stress and a different way of responding to it. For some it can be – in manageable doses – a help to maintain focus and encourage them to study. Other people struggle to manage it effectively.
The key is to put your exams in perspective. They are one step in your life journey and your future is unlikely to be ‘wrecked’ by not doing as well as you might have hoped. Many people find other routes to their chosen career despite disappointing exam results. The process might take a little longer or be a bit harder but you can still get there. Do your best and see what happens.
Related article: Do exam results define your future? Thankfully, no.
Exam stress tips #2: talk about how you are feeling
Preparing for exams can make you feel like it is ‘you versus the world’. It might seem like you have no support and long hours studying can leave you feeling isolated and under pressure. Talking about how you are coping with exam preparation is really beneficial.
Your friends are going through the same experience. Instead of bottling up your emotions or feeling like you just need to get through it, share how you are feeling with a trusted friend. Remember that your parents and older siblings have been there before and came out the other side. You might be surprised how helpful and reassuring talking to them can be on issues like exam prep, coping with nerves and dealing with results (good or bad).
Exam stress tips #3: take care of yourself
Stressing over exams can often lead us into negative behaviour, like cramming in as much revision as possible. Students can end up filling every waking hour (and a few when they should be sleeping) with past papers and course revision. None of that is healthy and can actually be counter-productive.
Performing well in your exams requires revision and preparation. But it also needs you to be in top form physically and mentally. That entails looking after your own wellbeing by sleeping well, eating healthily (not litres of Red Bull!) and exercising. Passing an exam is as much about how you slept, ate and exercised as how many hours revision you managed.
Find out more about health eating for your age group
Exam stress tips #4: it does not have to be revision 24/7
It is important to strike a balance between revision and having some fun. As a part of looking after yourself set time aside to do something you really enjoy and to chill out.
It will be tempting to forget about studying however! As a result it is important to be disciplined enough to limit that time. Put together a study schedule that includes an hour of revision followed by a 20 minute break watching your favourite TV comedy or listening to relaxing music. Feeling refreshed, you can then return to your studying and smash a few more hours of revision.
At the end of a good day of study, organise something fun to do as a reward for your efforts. Catch up with a friend or go to the gym as a little ‘well done’ to yourself for another day of exam prep.
Exam stress and relationships
Exam stress can be a real challenge for any young person. It can impact on your closest relationships – with friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, family – negatively. If you are struggling you can contact our free Relationship Helpline.
The Helpline offers help and advice via live web chatonline or on freephone 0808 802 2088.
If you are aged 18 or over you can also talk to us about counselling and whether that could help you with the challenges you are facing. Contact our enquiries line free on0808 802 0050 or complete an enquiry online.