How to deal with teen stress during final exams


teen and exam stress


It’s here…that stressful time of year when a meltdown can happen at any given moment. As the school year closes out, the stakes get higher with final exams and parenting gets tougher.

Push your teenager too hard and he or she could rebel or turn into a bundle of nerves. Don’t push enough and a poor or mediocre grade can kill your teen’s chances of getting into the college of his choice.

So how as a parent do you be supportive?

Here are a 10 things that have made a difference in my home during final exams:

Dinner is sacred. I noticed that my husband and I were nagging my son about his no nagging signgrades and study habits during dinner, which should be family time. So, I initiated a “no nagging” rule during dinner. In fact, there is no discussion at all about tests or grades or school. I have found it has made a big difference in the tension level in our home.

Get the review materials. As AP tests begin, make sure your teen has the current AP review books and flashcards. I just found out my son didn’t, which is why I am thankful for Amazon Prime and its two-day delivery. 

Encourage breakfast. Long gone are the days when skipping breakfast was something to brag about. Test scores and attention spans of teens who eat a well-balanced breakfast are generally higher than those who do not. This can make a difference during final exams. Make breakfast easy for your teen to grab in the morning. Some ideas are a bowl of instant oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, a protein bar, or cereal to go. The Clif Kid Organic Z Bar is a popular go-to in my home. 

Talk about screen time. As a parent, I get SO frustrated when my son has lots of studying to do for final exams but is watching videos or the Instagram feed on his phone. This is the time for deal making! Because finals are important to semester grades, I negotiate with my son over when it is acceptable to be on his phones or playing video games and when he needs to completely disconnect and study. There’s a free app called unGlue that helps kids (and parents) better manage their time on connected devices.

Stay calm and realistic. Sometimes, parents believe more is riding on final exams that actually is true. Reigning in your own stress over your teenager’s academics will help them cope with their own final exam stress. Be conscience of how you are interacting with your teen and what you are saying. (Easy to say, hard to do, right?)

Take a walk. Some teens take the stress of finals to heart. They stay up late studying, or wake up super early and they get themselves worked up. “Standards and expectations are really high these days,” says Naseem Ahsun, a teacher who co-authored the book The Laid Back Guide to Exams and Stress with psychologist Jennie Caswell.  Tell your teenager it’s okay to take a break and offer to take a walk around the block with her. Exercise is awesome stress relief.

Consider a meditation app. There are some great apps for reducing stress and staying grounded. Teens love to do things on their phones so suggest they download a meditation app and use it. Some of the apps I have suggested to my teens are Here and Now, which offers guided breathing, and Calm, which is the #1 app for mindfulness and meditation for teens. If you need an app for yourself to survive the next few weeks, I love the Headspace app, which is meditation training based on mindfulness.

Help them with techniques. As psychologist Jennie Caswell points out in Your Teen Magazine: The laid-back teenager, may, in times of stress, appear to be really lazy, but he actually is overwhelmed. What helps: “Getting these teenagers to break the big tasks down to little ones that they can take one step at a time,” she says.

Make a bed time. When my teenagers started high school, I adopted a hands off teen in bed with his laptopwhen it comes to bed time. Usually, I go to sleep before the teens in my home.  But I noticed around this time of year there are banquets and recitals and lots going on at the same time as finals. It’s not unusual to find my son in bed with his phone or laptop late at night. So, I figure it’s a good time to suggest your teen makes a bedtime for himself. He might push back (my son did) , but it’s worth emphasizing the importance of sleep and putting it out there for consideration.

Have the talk. Not every kid is an A student. Not every kid is a B student. Having the talk with your teenager about simply trying their best is important right about now. Even if you have had it before, do it again. Teens need assurance that their best is good enough for you.

To all the parents of teens out there, I wish you luck over the next few weeks. If you have any survival tips, please share them in the comments below!

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