The June Bank Holiday brings with it not only the glorious sunshine but also the inevitable stress of your teenagers gearing up for their exams, particularly the crucial Leaving Cert.
We understand that this period can be incredibly stressful for both you and your children. Anxiety levels tend to skyrocket during this time, affecting everyone involved. It’s important to recognize that anxiety is a normal response rooted in our survival instincts. However, it often stems from fear-based thoughts about future outcomes.
Anxiety can manifest physically, leading to palpitations, perspiration, trembling hands, headaches, and other physical symptoms. These symptoms are reactions to perceived threats. While taking exams may feel like a significant threat, it’s crucial to help your teens understand that they are not in real danger.
During this time, your teenagers may be influenced by their own self-talk as well as the environment around them, including the media, family, and schools. These factors can heighten the perceived threat of exams, further exacerbating their anxiety.
There are a number of things that can help reduce anxiety and stress, however some anxiety and stress is helpful as it helps to focus on the task at hand.
Foster Positive Thinking:
Very often teens hear teachers, parents and peers say things like: “If you don’t do well in the exams, you won’t get into a good college and your future looks bleak”.
Thoughts and narratives like this will heighten the perceived threat and set off anxiety symptoms.
Teach your teen to challenge negative thoughts with positive alternatives.
For instance, instead of thinking, “I’m going to fail,” or “If I don’t do well I won’t have a great future” hey can say, “I have prepared well, and I will answer the questions that I can” or “This exams cannot determine my future, there are many opportunities out there for me”.
Encourage them to write down the positive thoughts and place them where they can see them.
Teach effective time management:
Assist your teens in creating realistic study schedules and prioritizing tasks. Breaks and leisure activities are equally important for maintaining focus and reducing burnout.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits:
Help your teen understand the importance of eating nutritious meals to maintain their strength and manage stress.
Encourage a balanced diet consisting of vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fruits.
Discourage excessive consumption of fatty or sugary foods, which can lead to fatigue and sluggishness.
Substitute unhealthy snacks with healthier options like fruits, nuts, or nut butter.
Emphasize the Importance of Good Sleep:
Explain to your teen how sufficient sleep is crucial for their brain to function optimally.
Recommend they aim for 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Encourage them to establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or listening to calming music.
Discourage studying or using electronic devices in bed, as they can hinder sleep quality.
Suggest keeping their phone away, ideally outside the bedroom, at least 30 minutes before sleep.
Promote Regular Physical Activity:
Highlight the benefits of exercise for both the mind and body.
Explain that exercise releases chemicals that improve mood and reduce stress.
Encourage your teen to engage in regular physical activity to enhance their well-being and sleep quality.
Advocate for self-compassion and self-care practices. Encourage your teens to engage in activities they enjoy, whether it’s reading, listening to music, or pursuing hobbies, as a way to recharge their mental batteries. Suggest going for a walk, calling a friend, or watching a funny movie.
Foster a growth mindset:
Help your teenagers embrace challenges and view setbacks as opportunities for growth. Encourage them to focus on their progress rather than fixating solely on outcomes. Remind them they have prepared for the exams over the past six years. That is a huge achievement. Help them focus on all the things they have achieved over the past number of years.
Introduce Relaxation Techniques:
Teach your teen relaxation techniques to calm their mind and reduce stress.
For example, guide them to take deep breaths, visualize peaceful places, or practice grounding exercises by focusing on their feet and wiggling their toes.
Foster a safe space for your teenagers to express their concerns and worries. Active listening and empathy can go a long way in alleviating their anxiety.
Let your teen know they can always talk to you or another trusted person if they feel overwhelmed.
Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns about exams.
Offer a listening ear and support, and if necessary, help them seek advice from a teacher or counselor.
Remind Them of the Bigger Picture:
Help your teen keep things in perspective and remember that exam time is temporary.
Encourage them to take breaks and engage in enjoyable activities once exams are over.
Reinforce that by taking care of themselves, they can handle stress better and improve their chances of success.
By following these tips and supporting your teen through their exam period, you can help them manage their anxiety and stress more effectively, leading to better outcomes and overall well-being.
Wishing you and your teenagers a successful and fulfilling journey through the exam season!
Contact: [email protected]
Link to more articles on teen mental health:
Other useful links: