Battling Exam Stress: Managing your child in exam period

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Many high school students experience exam stress. In 2021, nearly 66% of Australian students reported stress leading up to exams.

The main issue amongst high school students is entry into their preferred university course.

Parents can assist with navigating the challenges of exam period and minimising stress for their children.

1. Creating an appropriate environment

Research from ReachOut shows 1 in 5 students did not have an appropriate study space during COVID-19.

Setting up a dedicated study space can provide your child with control if they regularly work from home.

ReachOut suggests allowing your child to make choices about the study area to ensure they are comfortable when studying there.

study. study space. quiet study space. student studying.

The dedicated space should be quiet, organised and away from distractions.

2. Assist with your child’s time management

Children often give up studying for their exams because they are overwhelmed or unsure where to begin. Parents can assist with this by:

  • Creating a list of tasks and content and help with prioritising.
  • Creating a study timetable to keep your child on track.
  • Create an assessment list with dates.

Parents can always reduce household chores to free student time and reduce stress.

3. Make sure they take breaks

Child Psychologist from Sydney Child Psychology Services, Nidhi Dev, believes taking effective breaks to relax students is the key for studying.

Studies suggest taking breaks approximately every 90 minutes to allow for better concentration.

Parents can help organise positive break activities. Activities to do during study breaks include:

  • Stretching, meditating or walking
  • Tidying up your space
  • Grabbing a healthy snack
  • Drink water

Activities for your child to avoid during study breaks include:

  • Watch a movie or TV show
  • Have a nap
  • Have unhealthy snacks

4. Nutrition and wellbeing

Consuming nutritional food is essential to support brain function.

The number of Australian students attributing their school stress to poor nutrition has increased by 21% in 2021.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines provides a guideline for daily servings and portion sizes for males and females of different ages.

vegetables. veggies. healthy food. fruit and vegetable for kids.


Some high nutrition brain foods include leafy greens, chickpeas, fatty fish, nuts, avocados, berries or green tea.

5. Use your school’s resources

Utilise your child’s stress management resources available at school.

Exam stress is best managed when students are well-organised and are able to plan ahead. These dispositions have to be developed over time; providing time for students to learn how to plan and prioritise helps, along with good modelling to show what being organised actually looks like. Connecting with successful ex-students is a great way to pass on study tips and habits; two of the most useful tips are; 1. Know the difference between homework and ongoing study and, 2. Never sacrifice sleep for study.

Mr Greg Longney, Director of Teaching and Learning at Barker College

Exam Stress: Signs to look out for in your child

Nidhi believes parents often notice when it is too late.

“Their (child’s) initial symptoms of anxiety and stress are normalised. Stress should be addressed from the very beginning of high school years.”

She believes the key is better stress management, rather than delaying until their child has higher stress levels. Motivation and procrastination need to be worked on an ongoing basis.

Nidhi notes stress triggers to look out for may include:

  • Behavioural changes;
  • If your child is isolating themselves from friends or family; or
  • Not eating or sleeping as much.

She advises some tips for parents:

  • Avoid putting extra pressure on your child by comparing them to others;
  • Focus on effort rather than grades;
  • Discuss back-up options for your child. There may be different or longer pathways to their dream course. This can avoid putting pressure on achieve a very high ATAR or VCE.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.


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