Keeping the balance - physical and emotional wellbeing in teenagers
It may seem obvious, but if your child is fit and well, their brain will work more efficiently (aiding revision) and they will be better equipped to cope with the pressure and stress of exams.
Encourage them to take regular exercise. Physical activity increases oxygen to the brain, releases endorphins and will give them a break from revision.
Make sure they are getting enough sleep. Not only is it important for them to ‘recharge their batteries’, but many studies have shown that going to sleep after trying to learn something has a beneficial effect on memory.
Your child is likely to get a better night’s sleep if they work with their ‘body clock’. A teenager’s ‘body clock’ is different to those of young children and adults. They are more likely to feel awake and alert if you allow them a moderate lie-in (a couple of extra hours in bed) than if they get up at the crack of dawn.
Help your child to feed their brain. In terms of fuelling their brain for a day of work or exams, it is not very complicated – make sure they eat plenty, drink lots of water and eat a well-balanced diet.
The main source of exam stress is fear of failure and this can have a very negative impact on performance. It’s a vicious circle. If your child dwells on the consequences of not doing well, the thought of exams will become even more terrifying, shaking their confidence and magnifying their nerves further.
As a parent, you can help your child through this by encouraging them to replace any negative ideas with more productive ones. Remind them that the exams are an opportunity for them to showcase their ability and all the hard work they have put in over the past few years!
A practical approach to tackling stress is for your child to get organised and put a revision plan together. Once they have done this and revision is underway, they will feel a lot more in control of the situation, which will help to alleviate some of their anxiety.
You can also talk to your child about strategies for coping with nerves:
• Point out that nerves are a good thing – they are proof that your child wants to succeed. You would be more concerned if they didn’t have nerves, as this would imply that they didn’t care.
• Build their confidence by reminding them how much effort and hard work they have put in and provide opportunities for them to talk about past achievements they are proud of.
• Encourage them to visualise sitting in the exam hall feeling confident and relaxed, and calmly answering all the questions with ease.
• Discuss how they can use deep breathing to relax themselves when they start to feel panicky.
• Get them to put together a playlist of songs that make them feel happy, calm and relaxed, which they can play at times when they feel particularly stressed.
Collins GCSE Study Skills is packed with invaluable advice on how to plan, prepare and study effectively for the GCSE exams, looking at all aspects of your teenager’s life, including diet, wellbeing and dealing with stress and pressure.
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