Mental Health Adults and Children

Helping kids manage exam anxieties

If you are a parent with children attending school, this is a must-read because at some point in both your lives, you will encounter the joys and challenges of dealing with exam-related anxieties. Drawing upon my experience as a father, a registered mental health nurse working in CAMHS, and a psychotherapist, I have written this article to provide guidance on supporting and assisting children and teenagers in managing their anxiety and panic before, during, and after exams.

From the moment year, six pupils embark on their SAT's journey to year eleven students tackling their GCSEs, the pressure mounts as our children prepare for their examinations. The weight of expectations, the significance of these exams for future academic pursuits, and the extensive amount of material to study can lead to heightened anxiety and panic at any given time. This article aims to provide practical examples, hints, tips and examples to assist children and teenagers in effectively managing their anxiety before, during, and after their exams. Here are some key strategies covered in the article:

Establish a Supportive Environment:

Create a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable discussing their concerns and fears.

Encourage open dialogue and active listening to ensure they know they are not alone in their struggles. Let them express their worries without judgment and provide reassurance that their feelings are valid.

Example: Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with each student to discuss their concerns, address any anxieties, and offer guidance.

Develop Effective Study Habits:

Help students develop effective study habits to alleviate anxiety caused by feeling unprepared. Teach them how to create a study schedule that balances revision and relaxation, allowing for regular breaks and sufficient rest.

Hints and Tips: Break down the revision material into manageable chunks to prevent overwhelm. Encourage active learning techniques such as summarising information, creating flashcards, or teaching the material to someone else. Promote varied study methods, such as practicing past papers, using online resources, and participating in study groups.

Teach Stress Management Techniques:

Equip students with practical stress management techniques to cope with anxiety before and during exams.

Hints and Tips: Deep breathing exercises: Inhale deeply for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat several times to promote relaxation.

Visualisation: Encourage students to visualise themselves successfully completing exams, picturing a positive outcome. Progressive muscle relaxation: Instruct students to tense and relax different muscle groups, starting from their toes and moving up to their head, to release tension.

Encourage Self-Care:

Promote self-care practices that foster physical and emotional well-being, as they are crucial in managing anxiety.

Hints and Tips: Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity helps reduce stress and improves overall mood. Encourage activities such as walking, yoga, or team sports.

Healthy eating: Encourage students to maintain a balanced diet, providing nourishment for their bodies and minds. Adequate rest and sleep: Ensure students prioritise restful sleep, as it enhances concentration and memory.

Provide Exam-Day Support:

Preparing students for the exam day itself can alleviate anxiety and panic.

Hints and Tips: Advise students to arrive early at the exam venue to avoid rushing and last-minute stress. Encourage them to bring all necessary materials, such as pens, calculators, and identification, to minimize anxiety about being unprepared. Remind students to read exam instructions carefully and allocate time wisely during the exam to ensure they complete all sections.

Foster Post-Exam Resilience:

The period after exams can be challenging as students may worry about their performance and results.

Hints and Tips: Encourage students to engage in activities they enjoy to distract from overthinking and anxiety. Remind them that their worth is not defined solely by exam results, emphasising that there are multiple paths to success. Support them in exploring potential career or further education options, promoting a positive mindset for the future.

Emphasise the Bigger Picture:

Help students maintain perspective by emphasising that exams are not the sole determinants of their worth or future success.

Hints and Tips: Encourage students to set realistic expectations and focus on personal growth rather than comparing themselves to others.

Highlight alternative pathways to success, such as vocational training or apprenticeships, to broaden their prospects beyond traditional academic routes.

Promote self-compassion and remind students that their mental well-being is paramount, encouraging them to seek support when needed.


Supporting your child through their examinations requires patience, understanding, and empathy. By implementing the strategies outlined above, you can help alleviate their anxiety and panic levels, fostering a positive exam experience. Remember, it's not just about the results; it's about the development of their overall well-being and instilling confidence in their abilities