Parenting teens: how to relieve exam stress?

If you are a parent of a teenager who is facing upcoming exams this May/June, you’re probably feeling the pressure. The revision, mock exams, parent-teacher meetings,  fraught nerves, late nights… it can be an intense period, to say the least.

While some teenagers seem to breeze through stressful periods, for many others the pressures of upcoming exams can make for a challenging few months.

Here are some simple suggestions to support your teenager during this potentially stressful time.

Support good sleeping habits

During my many years working as a secondary school teacher, I often had exhausted-looking students confess that they’d gone to bed at 1am, 3am – or that they’d barely slept at all. Why? Usually they were up studying or frantically pulling together last-minute assignments.

For stressed-out teenagers, a good sleep each night is critical. A lack of sleep has an incredibly detrimental impact on their wellbeing, academic performance and on their ability to cope with any challenges that might come their way each day.

sleep quality for teenagers - Happy Go KL

So what can you do to help?

Firstly: as hard as it might be, try not to worry about a late bedtime – that’s pretty normal. Adolescent teenagers have a different circadian rhythm to pretty much every other age group. The time at which their brain puts pressure on them to sleep is pushed forward, so expecting your child to go to bed at 10pm is the equivalent of asking you to going to sleep at 7:00 or 8:00pm. Possible? Probably not.

So, no matter how much nagging you do to try and convince your teenager to sleep earlier, you probably won’t be able to coax their circadian rhythm into changing. (If you want to learn more about teenagers’ sleep patterns, check out Matthew Walker’s fascinating book Why we Sleep).

So what can you do? Try and ensure that the sleep that they do get each night is high-quality.

One of the best things you can do is not allow any electronic devices in their room beyond a certain time – perhaps when you go to bed. A rule like this might not make you popular, but I can almost guarantee it’ll make a difference to the quality of their rest.

In the weekends, try and ensure that they sleep a minimum of 9 hours each night. If you can, avoid scheduling early-morning weekend tutoring or sports practices. Closer to exam time, it might be worth rescheduling or even cancelling any early morning activities – just for a few weeks – so that your child can get a bit more sleep.

Sort their schedules

Working out how to juggle studies with periods of rest and relaxation – and how to fit in the tutoring, the piano lessons, the football games and the extra revision sessions at school – can be really tough for a teenager. Please don’t expect them to be able to do this on their own – most kids are going to need a bit of help.

study teenagers stress - Happy Go KL

Sit down with your child and map out what each week will look like in the lead up to their exams. You’ll need a few things: their personal revision schedule; details of any extra sessions being offered by their school; dates/times for any co-curricular activities or tutoring.

It’s likely that, at such a busy time, something will have to give. Would it be the end of the world if they stopped piano lessons for just a few weeks? Or didn’t play football this term? Freeing up an hour or two each week, even just temporarily, can help relieve some of the pressure your child might be feeling.

It is also worth checking whether you can move around any tutoring or extra lessons to accommodate support sessions that are already happening at your child’s school. School sessions, if offered, should really take priority at this time of year.

If your child isn’t willing to go through this planning process with you, call on a teacher that they trust in their school. Explain that you’d like a hand working out a schedule – they should be more than happy to help out.

Work with your child’s school

This is the most important time of year to stay in close contact with your child’s school. Make sure you know who your first point of contact is (usually your child’s form/tutor teacher or year group leader) and their contact details. The school should have a whole team of people and resources to support your child during these challenging months.

support teenager study - Happy Go KL

Get in touch with your child’s school if:

  • Your child seems to be struggling emotionally
  • Your child is feeling overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to begin with their revision
  • Your child seems to be doing a lot of study but it’s not ‘showing’ in their results
  • You aren’t sure how to help and are feeling overwhelmed at home.

Don’t ever feel like you’re being a bother or an interruption. A strong home-school partnership is absolutely crucial. The more your child’s teachers know about how they’re coping at home, the better they can support them in school. And the sooner they know about any challenges your child is facing, the better.

Be realistic and supportive

One of the most common sources of stress for teenagers is unrealistic expectations. These might be expectations they put on themselves, but sometimes this pressure comes from parents, too.

teenagers teachers - Happy Go KL

Reassure your child that all you want is for them to do their best (they might have heard this before, but it never hurts to tell them again). They need to know that you believe in them and that they can do it. At times when they doubt themselves, they need you to be their cheerleader.

In practical terms, you can support them when they study by making sure they have a quiet place to work, healthy snacks on hand and no disruptions.

Finally, try not to take offence if it feels like your teenager is pushing you away during times of stress. You may also find that they take their frustrations and anxieties out on you – and this can be exhausting. Try and hang in there – and remember that this, too, shall pass.

Sign up for our newsletter

Receive an email newsletter every two weeks (or so) to get the best tips on what to do with kids in KL, best travel stories and much more!

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

We will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow us

Happy Go KL is all about having fun with kids in Kuala Lumpur!

This is where you find the latest activities, events and more.

And when it’s time to plan the next family holiday, we’ve got you covered with reviews of destinations and hotels. 100% written by parents!

Follow us on Facebook

You might also enjoy

Happy Go KL radio

Get your FREE guide!

Download your FREE  neighborhood guide !

Join our Facebook group

Stuff like this in your inbox!

More interesting posts for you :