Exam stress

The exam season can be a stressful time for both young people and their parents. It’s common for young people to be irritable and maybe have trouble sleeping and eating during this time.

Youth Mental Health Ireland Exam StressIt’s normal for parents to be anxious about how much their son or daughter is working and whether they’ll get the results they need.

Parents can, however, play a key role in helping their son/daughter cope with exam stress.

Support at school/college

If anxiety or panic continues it’s important they talk to someone about it. Schools often have cousellors available, though you’ll need to check whether this is the case in your son/daughter’s school.

Most colleges have health centres which are available for students free of charge or at reduced rates. Services usually include a GP, a counsellor, sexual health services and health promotion services.

You can check what services are offered in your son/daughter’s college by visiting the college website or by visiting ReachOut.com college counselling services.


Studying comes more naturally to some people than others, but it’s a discipline we nearly always have to keep working at.

As parents, it’s important to be as encouraging and patient as possible with young people who are working towards exams.

Third-level study

Adjusting to a more self-disciplined approach to college work can be tricky and can take time to get used to. If your son or daughter ever seems overwhelmed, let them know they can talk to their lecturers about it.

Most colleges offer support through the library or students’ union in relation to studying, preparing for exams, or peer mentoring etc.

Tips for supporting your son/daughter

  • Don’t place unnecessary pressure to gain certain grades. They may feel they’ve failed if they don’t achieve what they thought was expected of them.
  • Remain calm it’s not you it’s them! It’s perfectly normal for parents to become anxious and worried for their child in the lead up to exams. Try not to transfer any additional anxiety onto them. Don’t let your past experiences colour your expectations for them. Be calm and supportive.
  • Ensure they take regular breaks, eat healthy snacks and exercise. Encourage them to join family meals, even if it’s a busy revision day – get away from the books for a while. Have plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge. Make sure everyone in the house starts the day on a good breakfast. Porridge, muesli and eggs are good slow-releasing energy foods.
  • Look after yourself and relax. While it’s important to be supportive and present for your child during this time, experience suggests that some ‘time out’ for parents is as important as it is for students.
  • Help them revise by giving them the space and time to do so. Be relaxed about chores or untidiness and understand they might be moody.
  • Keep noise down and distractions to a minimum during study time.
  • Allow them to revise at night if that’s what works best for them. However, do make sure that they get enough sleep to keep up energy levels in the day.
  • Try to support your son/daughter rather than ‘policing’ them.
  • Observe how your son/daughter is coping and managing their stress. If you notice they seem very stressed ask how you can help. Sometimes it’s just enough for your son/daughter to talk things through. Actively listening can be enough to support them.
  • Keep perspective exams are not the be-all and end-all. Your son/daughter isn’t defined by their results, there are many career options open to them and many avenues.


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