Spring might be in the air, but school’s not over just yet, and most teenagers are headed into the most stressful time of the academic year: final exams. We caught up with Naseem Ahsun and Jennie Caswell, authors of the new book The Laid Back Guide to Exams and Stress to find out how parents can help teenagers get through exam stress.
Ideas for Coping With Teenage Exam Stress
1. Manage Your Own Expectations
Recognize how amped-up expectations are for our teenagers. Sure, we took exams, but the bottom line is that today’s high school experience is more stressful. “Standards and expectations are really high these days,” says Naseem Ahsun, a teacher who co-authored the book with psychologist Jennie Caswell. “If you think everything is riding on your teenager’s exam performance, your teenager will, too.” Reigning in your own stress over your teenager’s academics will help your teenager when it comes to coping with her own exam stress.
2. Figure out What Helps Your Teenager
Chances are what helps your teenager may be different than what helps another teenager, including a sibling. “Stress tends to be treated as one-size-fits-all,” says Caswell. “But each of us is different.” What matters is what solutions work for your teenager. In the book, Nahsun and Caswell use an animal clan guide to help parents figure out how to tailor their help for their particular teenager. It’s a fun, easy way to find a personality match for your teenager. For example:
The over-achieving, competitive teenager—a lioness—who is going to “work and work and work and ignore what she is feeling until she burns out,” says Ahsun. What helps: “Get them grounded. Tell them it’s okay to go see a friend and not work all the time.”
The laid-back teenager, who may, in times of stress, appear to be really lazy (like an orangutan). But he is actually overwhelmed. What helps: “Getting these teenagers to break the big tasks down to little ones that they can take one step at a time,” says Caswell.
3. Stay Calm
“It’s so easy to panic when you see your child in distress,” says Ahsun. But that’s not helpful. Instead, help your teenager discover how to manage their stress, so they develop the resilience they need to be successful in college and beyond. After all, life cannot be lived without some stress.
“It’s about helping them discover the tools they have to manage their stress,” says Caswell. “Your young adult has these tools. We all do.”