The year-end examinations are just around the corner and can be a source of stress for teens. This is especially true when facing major exams like SPM or PT3.
Stress is not always a bad thing. The right amount of stress can motivate your teen to be ready for exams and get things done. Problems arise when there is too much stress and pressure on her to perform well, which can negatively impact on her overall health and achievement.
S.O.S (Signs of stress)
Your exam-stressed teen may be exhibiting these signs:
- Headaches or stomach pains
- Losing or gaining weight (changes in appetite level)
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Girls may have changes in their menstruation cycle
Behaviour and emotions
- Feeling tense, moody, bleak
- Easily irritated, agitated
- More sensitive than usual to comments/remarks by parents or others
In severe stress and anxiety
- Loss of interest/ pleasure in activities she previously enjoyed
- Persistent negative and low mood, feeling hopeless
- Panic attacks
- Increased desire to isolate herself from family and friends
What can you do?
Here are the things you can do to support and empower your teen to cope with her stress:
- Time management: Get her to prepare a visual schedule or timetable. It can be a weekly timetable or a simple daily to-do list. Your feedback can be helpful, but ultimately, empower her to devise her own strategy or plan.
- Conducive study area: Provide a comfortable and ergonomic study table and chair, and ensure adequate lighting. Arrange books and stationery so that they are accessible yet organised, as clutter can be a distraction. Minimise digital distractions such as TV and gadgets.
- Chores and routines: Understand that the exam is her main priority at the moment, so it is okay to be lenient with house duties. Rearrange the chores list or other family routines, so it does not clash with her study time.
- Take a break: A tired brain and eyes cannot stay focused. In your child’s schedule, help her to include regular, short breaks from studying. She can do some stretches, go for a walk, listen to some music, play with her pet, or take a nap.
Nutrition and physical health
- Healthy nutrition: Make sure she eats well and does not skip meals. Provide healthy snacks during study sessions, like fresh fruits, milk, yoghurt, sandwiches, wholegrain biscuits or energy bars. Avoid caffeine products.
- Sufficient sleep: At least 8 hours of sleep is still necessary so she can stay fully focused the next day.
- Stay active: Exercise and physical activity can help her relieve stress. Endorphins released during exercise help the body and mind to relax and stay positive.
Emotional and mental health
- Show your support: Respond positively to her needs and feelings. Do not brush off her anxiety as unfounded. Be open and spend special time together.
- Talk about her worries: Feeling nervous about exams is normal. What matters is how she deals with it. Listen to her concerns, be it her lack of time or difficulty understanding a certain topic. If she feels like giving up, motivate her by reminding her of her goals in life.
- Do not add pressure: Try not to nag her during this period (although parents may find this challenging!). Be calm, positive and reassuring when she seems stressed. Avoid negative criticism and unrealistic expectations. Let her know you will still love her no matter what the exam outcome may be; the important thing is to put in her best effort.
- Treats and rewards: A small treat after a long day of studying can help keep her going, be it her favourite dessert or an episode of her favourite show. Having plans for what she is going to do after the exams can also give her something to really look forward to.
Ultimately, exams are just a minor part of our lives. Our future is not solely determined by exam results. Many other factors in life contribute to shaping a person’s growth and well-being. Focusing too much on exam results without considering your teen’s ability only adds to her stress, which may lead to more serious mental health issues. It is important to know your teen’s capabilities and manage your own expectations, while supporting your teen based
on her unique strengths and weaknesses.