Exams, Life at School

Helping children conquer exam stress

We are fast approaching that time of year when everyone gets a bit anxious about sitting exams.  Children and teenagers feel anxious because, lets face it, how many of us really enjoy sitting an exam?  As parents, we become anxious and start worrying about whether our children and teens are preparing enough for their exams, as at the end of the day, we want them to do well and not feel stressed about learning.  Without realising it, we the parents, project our levels of anxiety onto our children and start making verbal statements or ask too many questions which create more anxiety.  It all becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, with everyone in the family feeling as if someone, or themselves are fit to burst with all the stress that floats around leading up to an during exam time.

Exam stress can affect all children of all ages and will influence how they approach an exam situation.  Depending on their approach and their anxiety levels, these unsettled moments will more than likely impact their exam performance.  There are some individuals who thrive on challenges and are less affected by the prospect of exams, whilst others struggle with their attention and memory, resulting in diminished problem solving and heightened levels of anxiety during exam time.

But, all is not lost, we as adults need to take a deep breath and share with our children how to feel relaxed by teaching them relaxation and correct breathing techniques, plus introduce some simple mindfulness techniques to help calm their nerves.   If we as parents can display calm, grounded and positive behaviours towards challenges, then by example, we are showing our children how to cope in potentially anxiety provoking exam situations.

Research has shown that children who participate in regular meditation sessions, cope better during exam time as they are able to call upon their inner calm and improved resilience to see them through.

In fact, teaching children to focus on the current moment or the “here and now” is essential to their long term mental health.  Consider how often as adults we worry about tomorrow and harbour regrets about yesterday.  If we had been taught mindfulness meditation when we were young, I am sure many of us would look back and feel grateful that we could reduce our anxiety by learning how to focus on the here and now and approach life in a more grounded way.

Unfortunately not all schools have the space in their curriculum to offer mindfulness as part of a child’s education and with a busy after curricular timetable, it can be difficult to persuade schools to add yet another activity to their schedule.

There is growing recognition worldwide that a well-rounded education must involve more than academics and a competitive sports programme.  It should include learning experiences and skills related to social and emotional literacy, including the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction breathing techniques.

Luckily, planting the seeds of mindful awareness in all spheres of your child’s life is easier than you think. Children have a natural tendency to notice the smaller details of life that we as adults tend not to notice anymore as we rush about our day.   You do not need to be an expert to start a mindful practice at home, just an open mind and a willingness to become more aware f how you and your family are interacting, or not, with the world around them.   Keep it simple, but commit to starting, even if for a mere minute a day.

Try this quick exercise with you children and teens (and any other members of the family too)

The one-minute pause
All you need to do is pause for one minute.  Literally stop what you are doing and just pause.    Individuals need to be encouraged to observe the beauty around them ie. A lovely tree, a moment in nature and natural open spaces, also notice how they are feeling, their breath, their bodies, emotions…. just pause and see what is happening with you and your relationship to the world around you in that short space of time.

You can time this minute and ring a bell when the minute is up.

When you teach children and teenagers stillness and introduce them to the concept of the one-minute pause, you are encouraging them to discard the “minds chatter’ and observe the world around them from a deeper place inside, even if for only a minute…

Try and do this yourself and with your children and teens a few times a day.

One of the best gifts you can give your children is the gift of calm and clarity during stressful moments in life.

As a busy parent, you owe it to yourself to develop and strengthen your own mindfulness practice so that you can share mindfulness with your children and help them manage the ebb and flow of life as you manage the intricacies of work/life balance.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.