How to support your teen through exams & stress

As high school students around Australia prepare for exams, teen expert Marina Passalaris from Beautiful Minds, has some good advice to help families manage pre-exam stress.

As a society, we are often taught that stress is a bad thing. Adrenalin can be useful in helping kids stay on track and study longer. The concerns around stress arise when it takes over and your teenager starts to feel overwhelmed and even isolated.

One thing we must remember is that exams are the first of many deadlines your child will need to manage. Don't rob them of developing that crucial skill by jumping in and solving everything.

We have all heard the ‘healthy body, healthy mind” mantra but this is an area that teens really need to focus on during stressful periods. It is vital to get enough sleep and exercise, and to eat properly. Limit caffeine and sugar intake and increase water consumption.

Coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks and many energy drinks can all contain significant amounts of caffeine, which in high doses may cause anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and make it harder to concentrate.

Parents need to help their kids create a balanced schedule during the lead-up to exams. Often sitting down and making a plan on paper and breaking up the study into small, manageable time slots can be really beneficial to teens. This joint planning is a fantastic way for parents to be aware of their teens work load and have a clear understanding about what they are going through.

It is vital that teens have a good balance between home, school, social and sports time even during busy exams times.

As difficult as it may be, parents need to take a step back and let their teens be responsible and in charge of their study times. This will teach them good time-management.

For some students, the pressures of being a teenager and preparing for major exams can be overwhelming.

You may want to talk to their year adviser, teacher, school counsellor or a child psychologist if you're worried about them having sleeping issues, displaying low self esteem, losing touch with friends and not wanting to take part in their normal social activities.

Things parents can do:

1: Keep the family home calm

2: Don’t put unrealistic pressure on your already stressed teen

3: Be there to support and listen to them

4: Ensure your teen has healthy food to eat

5: Manage your teens stress levels by making sure they still exercise on a daily basis (even if it is a short walk for 20 minutes)

Things teens can do:

1: Plan a study schedule and take responsibility for your workload

2: Remove your mobile phone from your bedroom to ensure you have a good nights sleep without social media interruptions (as challenging as this may be).

3: Caffeine and sugar produce more anxiety. Find an essential oil and inhale it periodically. It will lower the level of cortisol in your blood stream and give you instant calm.

4: Make your study breaks fun. Catch up with family or friends and have a total mental break from the books.

5: You can only do your best.

Marina Passalaris is the Founder and Director of Beautiful Minds Australia. A life skills program dedicated to the education and empowerment of teen girls. Beautiful Minds is run Australia wide and educates thousands of teens every year. Marina is the Author of Beautiful Minds, a guide book for teen girls.