How to cope with exam stress
Tackling exam stress, advice from MyDaughter

How to cope with exam stress

05/05/2011

Don’t let your anxiety distort reality, experts warn parents with children about to sit exams while away at boarding school. The advice, from the popular My Daughter website, is designed to help parents who are physically separated from their children to cope with their own and their child’s exam stress.

The experts go on to say:
Don’t believe everything you hear on the phone - whether your teenager projects all-consuming anxiety, or breezy self-confidence, it’s rare for either situation to be the full picture. Your daughter might just need to offload to feel better. She might want to protect you from the truth. Or she might want to protect herself from the onslaught of well-meaning advice you’d unleash on her if she gave any hint that she wasn’t working as she should. Take everything she says with a pinch of salt, and keep checking that you’re not interpreting the situation as worse than it actually is.

Phone your daughter's Head of House if you are genuinely worried. They are in the very best place to tell you exactly what’s going on. It may be that all is well, and work and revision is going to plan. If not, the House staff will be on the case, and will be able to reassure you about what they are doing to ease your daughter’s worries and keep her on track for her exams.

Ask what strategies the school has to guide your daughter to exam success. This knowledge will reassure you. Strategies are likely to include maintaining her physical health through adequate exercise and sleep, sensible habits such as ensuring they don’t watch TV when they should be revising, and providing emotional support with plenty of encouragement, advice and motivation. Knowing this will make you more confident when it’s your turn to reassure your teenager over the phone.

Consider what to do about ‘study leave’. Most schools – including Roedean - operate a system in the run-up to public examinations whereby pupils are allowed to study at home. The rationale is that at home they will be able to revise in peace and quiet. However, you need to be absolutely clear that, if your teenager comes home for study leave, they use the time wisely.

Above all, keep calm and retain a sense of proportion. Anxiety helps no-one, and could easily make matters worse.

The advice concludes by reminding parents that they’re only exams. It’s not the end of the world if your daughter doesn’t do as well as expected – remember that some of the most successful people in the country failed at school and still made a name for themselves.

Mrs King is a member of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) which runs the My Daughter advice website and also recently contributed to the book 'Your Daughter: A Guide to Raising Girls'.

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