Supporting Your Teen Through Exams

01 September 2020

As exam time draws near for secondary students, parents may be considering how they can best support their teen during this time. The CEWA Psychology Team have put together the following pointers to help.

Getting Organised

In the months and weeks leading up to the exam period, work with your teen to:

  • Create a comfortable space that helps limit distractions and interruptions during set study times.
  • Produce a study timetable that is sensible and accounts for prior commitments.
  • Limit external and family commitments such as household chores.
  • Help them understand when they study most effectively and schedule study times that match this.
  • Schedule in regular short and long breaks to relax, exercise and socialise. See: Ideas for Taking a Break.
  • Understand what they can do to relax. Write a list of these so your teen can use them when required.
  • Assess part-time job commitments and limit hours if required.

Managing Distractions

It can be hard to concentrate on study when there are too many distractions. Discuss with your teen what they are most likely to be distracted by and how they can limit these. Ideas may include making the study area a phone free zone or turning off social media notifications during set study periods.

It is important that your teen has regular breaks while studying and sets aside time for fun. If they know that they will get time to connect with others and do the things they enjoy they will find it easier to focus during set study periods.


Sitting down to study for exams can feel overwhelming. Check with your teen to see if they understand how they study best.

Many schools run sessions for Year 12 students on study techniques.  Encourage them to check in with their Year Coordinator to find out more.

Managing Stress

It can be helpful for your teen to understand that stress is an emotional and physical response to challenging situations. It is the body’s way of motivating us to respond to the situation. The right amount of stress can motivate your teen to focus and study. When stress gets to the point that sleep or concentration is disrupted, it can become problematic.

These basic steps can help your teen cope with exam stress:

  • Promote good eating habits, hydration, sleeping well, and exercising regularly. Discourage excessive caffeine intake.
  • Encourage them to take a break if they seem overwhelmed and use a pre-determined relaxation strategy.
  • Help them to keep a balanced lifestyle and continue to do the things they love as well as finding time to study.
  • Let them talk it out – be a safe space for them to talk about their worry. Listen, accept, and empathise. Try not to judge what they are saying or tell them what to do.
  • Ensure conversations with your teen do not solely relate to exams. Make long-term plans which include holidays or something fun happening at the weekend.
  • Encourage them to use relaxation techniques, or practice these with them. There are numerous apps that can be used for relaxation.

Ideas for Taking a Break

  • Get some fresh air. Go for a walk or run, spend some time in the back garden, find a peaceful place to sit outside (at the foreshore or a nearby beach) or go for a cycle.  Fresh air can do wonders in relieving stress!
  • Watch an uplifting movie or TV show.
  • Listen to some relaxing music, an audiobook or podcast.
  • Meditation apps such as Smiling Mind, Insight Timer, and ReachOut Breath.
  • Spend some time with a pet. Walk your dog, play with your cat, snuggle your guinea pig!
  • Cook up a new recipe or a tasty dish.
  • Spend some time with your punching bag. Set up a boxing routine to relieve tension.
  • Grab a bite to eat with a friend.
  • Play an online game with a mate.
  • Have a relaxing bath or shower. Add some aromatic bath salts!

If you feel that your teenager’s stress is interfering with their daily functioning, it may be worth seeking professional help with a Psychologist. They can also find further support at:

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