A new survey of parents has found that the majority consider that exam stress negatively impacts the mental health of their children. The survey also found that many children have lost sleep or sought professional medical help as a result of exam stress.
The survey was carried out by the online website, Mumsnet as exam season gets underway across the country. Two out of three parents polled said exam pressure was having an impact on their child’s mental health with one in 10 saying the impact was severe and 9% saying they’d taken medical advice.
Exam stress is not just consigned to older children sitting GCSE or A-level exams, younger pupils are also feeling anxiety about test results. Justine Roberts, who is the founder of the Mumsnet community says there is increasing parental concern about how much pressure teenagers are dealing with.
If you’re concerned that exam stress is having an impact on your child’s mental health, here are a few things you can do to help:
- The NHS advises parents to be aware of the signs of stress in order to recognise when a problem develops. Common signs of stress include difficulty falling asleep, a loss of appetite, a loss of interest in hobbies that they previously enjoyed, increased irritability, appearing tense, eating more than usual and generally appearing down in their mood.
- While it can be a hard thing to enforce, ensuring they get enough sleep is really important and can have a positive impact on mental health. Teenagers should aim for an average of eight or so hours sleep per night. Ensuring study stops an hour or so before bed is a good first step as is making time for a TV show before bed or a similar relaxing activity to help switch off.
- Dishing up balanced meals and prioritising nutritious foods is also key during this period – getting them involved in the weekly food shop could be a good starting point as can encouraging them to choose or make (if they enjoy it) snacks and meals using healthy ingredients.
- Ease up on chores – being flexible is important says the NHS so staying calm in the face of a bedroom tornado or removing them from dishwasher duty can help.
- Encourage physical activity – exercise is a great way to increase energy levels and mood and is a great stress buster so encourage them to get away from the books and do something different for half an hour or so. Swimming, football, cycling and even dog walking are all good. Activities you can do together like a fitness class at the gym or even online or via an app are great ideas too.