parents encouraged to keep a close eye on their young person during exam time

With exam time around the corner headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation is providing parents with tips and advice to support their young person through what can be a difficult and testing time.

Feelings of stress are very common in young people in the lead up to exams, however parents should be aware there are some clear signs to look out for which might help indicate that the level of stress in a young person is hindering their ability to cope and study, rather than helping them.

Nick Duigan, Manager of Clinical Practice at headspace says parents should trust instincts when it comes to determining if stress levels are becoming worryingly high due to exam pressure.

“Stress at exam time is extremely common. It can include feelings like increased tension, feeling on-edge, and increased heart rate - for example. Sometimes stress can be helpful to sharpen concentration, focus and motivation on particular tasks, and can actually help with exam study and preparation. However, there is a point when stress can become difficult to handle, and can have a detrimental effect on someone’s ability to study or concentrate.

“We want parents to trust their instincts if they notice something is out of the ordinary with their young person. Things like changes in appetite, sleeping patterns, having a lot of trouble concentrating or staying focused, feeling overwhelmed or becoming teary are clear signs to step in and offer some support,” Mr Duigan said.

There are a many ways parents can support their young person during exam time, the first is to open up lines of communication. It can help to be aware that when young people are stressed, they might have a hard time receiving support. Parents should consider the way that support is offered, and to try to do this at a time when young people are feeling a little more calm.

Although not intended, young people may become defensive about offers for support, even when it comes from a place of care and support. Knowing this can help prepare parents to remain calm and in control during times of stress.

Before looking at solutions, offers of support are often more helpful if it’s about shared problem solving and hearing young people’s concerns. If a parent and young person are ready to look at some possible solutions, there are many things that might be helpful, they might include:

  • Study space: creating a clear organised study space that’s limited of distractions like phones, the TV or people talking
  • Plan ahead: help in developing a study plan with goals for the week and a good balance of social and sporting activities, this will make the plan more realistic and easier to stick to
  • Snack right: encourage regular hydration with lots of water and have some nutritional healthy snacks on hand\
  • Self-care: learning relaxation techniques together like breathing exercises, mindfulness activities or even listening to music can help reduce stress levels
  • Exercise: encourage regular physically activity, even 30 minutes is proven to decrease stress and improve overall mood

An encouraging home environment can assist a young person in building a range of coping strategies.

“Supporting a young person through exam time can help a young person develop resilience and coping skills to tackle challenges they might face in later life.

“While exam stress is common at this time of year, parents can help by ensuring their young person has access to information and support. These resources can help a young person better recognise the early warning signs of mental health difficulties, and help them to put in place healthy habits to support their mental health, and prevent a mental illness from developing, Mr Duigan said.

More information on how to reduce stress & prepare for exams.