Young Minds activist Alice Victor discusses the pressure she feels during examination time and how parents and teachers can support students through the stress.
Don’t stay silent:
As teachers or parents, you know that your student or kid express themselves in special ways. Talking about their mental health is no different, so do not ignore any comments a young student makes, however brief, even if something seems like a bit of class room banter. Everyone has various sensitivity levels, and what you might disregard as a throwaway comment could be the tiniest hint of a much bigger issue.
Do not keep quiet about it, either. Open up a dialogue with the young student about the comment they made. A small, sympathetic action like this might motivate them to speak up about something that goes much deeper.
It is obviously significant that your kids respect you and that you maintain a professional relationship. However, when talking about mental health and stress, it helps to memorize that we are all human. Interact with kids as you would anyone else not as young people who are poles apart from you. Avoid being patronizing or condescending by being as honest or open as possible.
What was most useful to me during exam time was to hear honest – and sometimes exposing – examples of mental health struggles and stressful situations, both from my peers and from the adults I looked up to. It helped me to know that I was not alone.
Don’t put too much pressure on us:
I went to a college or school renowned for its educational reputation. Despite proving my aptitude by getting into the school, throughout my time there I felt constant pressure to exceed the expectations of my teachers and parents, and to live up to the successes of my peers. Students think about their future and want to do best at college and beyond. They put sufficient pressure on themselves, without anyone else adding to it.
Offer practical support:
It is significant to acknowledge the emotional strain a student might be feeling in the run-up to tests, but practical support is just as important. When I was dealing with exam stress, the difficult thing for me was discovering everyday strategies to assist me cope with the pressure. The strategy I found most helpful were:
Planning a sensible revision time table not just one that shown the amount of revision I felt I ought to be doing.
Learning to have confidence in my own strength and targ eting my revision towards the topics and subjects I struggled with. This may sound obvious, but it can be hard to accept the things you are bad at and even harder to put effort and time into getting better at them.
Not wasting time on the “shoulds” and “ought tos”. When I lastly ignored what my friends were doing and used my revision period to focus on myself, I enhanced faster and I am not fleeing stressed. But as a student, it is not uncommon to be sucked in to the world of your peers, mainly with the 24/7 nature of social media. Having someone to support you with realizing your own priorities can be extremely helpful.
Motivate young people to reach out:
Many of my peers, included me, took a long time to ask for any help. In my case, this made me retreat further from the outside world, leaving me feeling more stressed and isolated.
While a lot of students feel increased levels of stress in the run-up to examinations, some individuals also have to cope with mental health conditions or special educational needs during exam time.
You might not be the only person able to provide support to your students: friends, parents, and mental health experts may also be on hand. If you see a student is struggling, maybe you could be the person who gently pushes them to seek the assist they need.
These are just few practical tips that worked for me. I am not saying they will work for everyone, but several of my friends found that related ideas helped them revise in a more productive way and cope better with examination-related stress.
It is vital to acknowledge the emotional strain a student may feel in exam time, but practical revision tips are also important.