Updated: Jan 21
Exam time can be stressful for students and their parents alike. As parents we feel we should be confidently providing our child with the right emotional support but this is easier said than done, right? Sometimes with all the worrying and fear, it feels like you’re the one taking the exam! Try these small yet effective ways to help your child survive exams with minimum stress and maximum results.
1. Minimise distractions
While an exam isn’t a reason to ditch all your family’s habits and traditions, make sure you minimize distractions in the house during this period. Watching TV, spending too much time on social media, doing too many household chores, and the crazy noise of a busy home can all distract your child from studying or add unnecessary stress.
Excessive smartphone use has been shown to elevate stress as well as decrease memory and concentration. If you have the space, a separate study space away from distractions can help your child stay calm and focused. But what helps or hinders is different for each child, so discuss possible distractions with your child and figure out how you can minimize them together.
2. Support your child emotionally
Supporting your child physically and financially during their exam preparation stage is excellent. However, you should also be there for them emotionally. Studying is always filled with pressure, stress and worry, so being there emotionally can be incredibly positive. Not only does it help them prepare better for their exam, but also helps your child’s mental wellbeing.
Emotionally supporting your child can mean discussing their worries, fear and problems with them, or even just showing that they are your priority and you believe in their ability to succeed. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations for your child and maintain consistent communication to help support and inspire your child to study smarter.
Setting goals too high will put a lot of pressure on your child. The pressure doubles and children have a risk of developing panic attacks and other mental disorders. As a result, they would rather worry about satisfying your expectation than preparing for an exam. Let your child know that you love and support them regardless of their exam results.
3. Help with time management
With so many tasks on your plate, we as adults have trouble managing their time effectively. Now imagine how hard it is for your child to handle school, extra-curricular activities, homework, studying, friendships, chores, and then exams – all at the same time. It’s overwhelming and stressful. Help your child to create good study habits starting with a clear structure.
Work with your child to create a study schedule that maintains the balance between their exam preparations and their usual life commitments. By creating the schedule together, you’re able to work effectively to support your child in maintaining these habits in the lead up to their exams.
When building a schedule, make sure your child has free time to get active. Even 30 minutes a day for a favourite activity, particularly if it involves getting outside and moving a bit, can play a significant role in the mood patterns of your child. According to a study, drawing may help children to vent their negative emotions and increase a positive mood.
4. Avoid comparison
Oftentimes, parents say things like, “How are you going to get a good job if you can’t study for exams,” “Your brother was always so good at Maths,” or “I wonder how Jessica manages to study so well. I wish I had a daughter like her.” Even if your intention is to encourage your child with this approach, it can often backfire.
Accept the fact that each child is different. While some kids are great with numbers, your child is amazing at english, sport, creative arts or being compassionate. Gone are the days when exams defined a child’s future. The world has moved on and realised that exam results can’t measure a person’s character, their ability to work hard or their excellent communication skills.
Let your child know that it’s only an exam and you know that they’ll do the best they can. While exams may seem to be everything, your child’s well-being is always paramount. One day, you will forget about these exams, but your child will remember your support through this stressful time.
5. Pay attention to your child’s exam strategy
Many students lose out on their exam marks because they don’t have a study strategy in mind. Your child could spend hours preparing for an exam and still not get the best results. It’s not because your child isn’t smart, it’s likely because they have never learnt how to study?
Here are a few tips for creating a successful exam strategy with your child:
Focus on what you struggle with rather than reviewing everything. If your child has trouble answering certain questions, focus on those questions. See what they struggled with in the last exam, and see if you can improve on those areas.
Know what’s going to be in the exam. Exam notifications contain a lot more information than just the day the test is on. You can find out the areas covered, what type of questions will be in the exam and even how the teacher’s will be marking it. All this information will help your child know what’s coming and be better prepared for it.
Make a study plan. Once you have a better idea of what your child needs to review and focus on, you can better allocate time to cover those areas. Be sure a study plan contains more time for hard topics and your child has one day before an exam for a quick overview.
Organize all materials for review. Help your child to organize all materials for an overview.
Practice. There are plenty of practice papers or mock essay questions that can be found online or from your child's teacher. Have a small exam at home and see what questions your child answers well and what your child may need more work on.
With a proper exam strategy in mind, your child is more likely to succeed in their exams.
6. Motivate your child with small rewards
It’s more inspiring and easier to work when you receive a financial reward for it, right? Although it’s a bad idea to pay your child for getting ready for exams, small rewards won’t hurt. Set small effort-based goals for your child’s exam preparation and give them a small reward for achieving each goal. It can be anything – from a favorite dish, to new clothing, to a ticket to a concert or sports event. Short-term rewards can bring long-term results.
Many parents tend to give punishments rather than rewards. While it’s possible to control your child's behavior through punishment, they’re less likely to succeed, it’s also not sustainable. Punishments have been shown to cause negative behavior in children.
On the other hand, rewards will motivate your child to perform better, it might even be a great opportunity for you to take your child out for some quality time together.
7. Ensure they get enough sleep and eat well
If your child feels anxious while preparing for exams, they might experience mood swings, sleep issues, and loss of appetite. Getting a good night’s sleep is critically important for your child’s mental and physical health. It’s also vital that your child gets enough nutrients through food.
A well-balanced meal plan and good night’s sleep will boost your child’s memory and concentration, and give them enough energy to get ready for exams and pass them all successfully. Help your child maintain good sleep habits and nutrition by ensuring that there’s good food to eat and ensuring that they have at least an hour of calm time without screens before going to bed.
The final word
Exams are stressful for children and parents alike. While some students survive exams with little effort and stress, others might experience a lot of pressure and anxiety. Supportive parents help students perform better and pass exams successfully. Be there for your child and let them know that you’re always ready to help them, not only with these exams, but with all of life’s challenges.