Exploring Exam Stress and Coping Strategies – for Parents & Carers


Exploring Exam Stress and Coping Strategies

Exams can be a challenging time for young individuals, as they often feel a lot of pressure to do well, which can lead to stress and anxiety. As parents and carers, there are various ways we can support our child during this important period. This article aims to explore helpful coping techniques and strategies that can assist young people in managing exam stress.

You may remember your own feelings before exams, when you were teetering on the brink of knowledge, experiencing a mix of excitement and nerves. Exams seemed daunting, turning everyday tasks into high-pressure situations. The pressure to excel, the fear of forgetting important information, and the nights spent tossing and turning all played a role in the exam preparation process. Reflecting on your own experiences may help you empathise with what your child is going through, and considering some coping strategies can be beneficial as well.

Understanding Exam Stress

Before delving into some suggested coping strategies, it is essential to have a clear understanding of exam stress and its impact on young individuals. Exam stress can manifest in various ways, with students often describing it as feeling overwhelmed, pressured, and unsure of their abilities.

You may notice different signs that your young person is getting anxious and stressed about forthcoming exams such as;

  • Physical signs include a fast heartbeat, tense muscles, headache, sweating, upset stomach, nausea, diarrhoea, dry mouth and difficulty sleeping.
  • Behavioural signs include fidgeting, sleeping habit, nail biting, changes in eating habits or use of substances (alcohol/ smoking)
  • Mental and emotional signs include difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, "going blank," worry, and uncontrolled feelings of fear, denial, dread or helplessness.


If your child is experiencing difficulties with exam stress, it is important to remember that this is a common issue and there are strategies that can be used to support them during this time. It is worth keeping in mind that exam stress can impact young people at different stages, including during preparation, while awaiting results, and even after the exams have finished.

Factors such as feeling unprepared, external pressures, personal expectations, and worries about the future can all contribute to this stress.

If your child is having trouble coping, please consider speaking to the school, college, GP or contacting a counsellor.


Suggestions on how you can support your child with exams:


  • Prioritise sleep, nutrition, and hydration. Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress so having a good sleep routine can help enormously.
  • Encourage physical activity and relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness.
  • Plan enjoyable activities to unwind after studying including catching up with family and friends.

Positive Reinforcement & Communication

  • Reassure your child that you are proud of their efforts, regardless of the outcome.
  • Focus on growth and progress, not just perfect scores.
  • Avoid excessive pressure or comparisons with peers or siblings.
  • Chat openly with your young person. Let them share their worries and fears.
  • Give them a hug and let them know it's okay to feel however they're feeling.
  • Be informed about when exams are taking place and where, so you know what is happening every day

Revision Strategies:

  • Encourage your child to find a revision style that works for them. Some may prefer more visual aids like flashcards or revision guides on YouTube, while others might benefit from mind maps or practice questions.
  • Maybe suggest supporting them with revision by having short Q&A sessions using flash cards.
  • Remind them to take regular breaks to avoid burnout – if possible encourage a short walk or some exercise.
  • Ensure they maintain a balance between studying and leisure activities.

Reasonable Adjustments:

  • If your child has a disability, explore reasonable adjustments with their school or college.
  • These adjustments might include extra time, a scribe, or modified assessment materials.

Seek Professional Help:

  • If stress significantly impacts their daily life, consult a GP or counsellor.

Results Day:

  • Remain calm and supportive and be there for them especially if results aren't what they were expecting
  • Look into other possibilities and remind them that it's all part of the journey of learning.

Each young person deals with the stress of exams in their own unique way but it is essential to provide them with the support they need to thrive and for them to know that their feelings are validated.

It goes without saying but show patience, empathy, and above all, celebrate their dedication and perseverance during this challenging exam season. Let them know that you are there for them every step of the way, cheering them on and acknowledging all their hard work.

Please do get in contact with me if you have any questions and the best of luck to everyone taking exams this summer.

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