Supporting Young People Through Exam Stress

By Ms Sophie Chang, School Psychologist

Exam week is right around the corner and exam stress may be building up for our adolescents. Parents play a crucial role in supporting our young people by guiding them through stressful times like this and teaching them ways to manage life stressors.

During the adolescent emotional development phase, young people are often better at suppressing or hiding their feelings than they were as younger children. Here are some signs to look out for that might indicate that your adolescent is under stress:

  • Blaming others, anger or frustration.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Sleeping difficulties - unable to fall asleep or waking up.
  • Racing heart and sweating.
  • Mild chest tightness or pain.
  • Nausea or minor stomach upsets.
  • Skin breakouts.
  • Teeth grinding, nail biting and fidgeting.
  • Withdrawing from social activities with friends or family.
  • Feeling cranking and irritable (increased yelling, crying, swearing and lashing out).
  • Feeling or thinking negatively about the future.

You can support your adolescent to cope with exam stress by trying some of the following suggestions:

  • Teach them the importance of study breaks.
  • Be constructive and positive.
  • Encourage good sleep patterns and eating habits.
  • Provide a quiet space for them to study and prepare.
  • Set realistic expectations and don't push them too hard.
  • Encourage them to ask their teacher questions if they’re unsure.
  • Help them know what to expect on the day of the exam.
  • Help them be on time for the exam or arrive early.
  • After the exam, listen to their concerns and avoid judgement and criticism.

If the exam stress is overwhelming your adolescent, you can help them through your local GP or refer them to the Radford Secondary School Wellbeing Team by emailing us at

Exam stress can have an impact on our adolescents as well as parents. If you are finding it challenging to cope or support your young person during this time, please call Parentline ACT on 02 6287 3833 for support and advice.

Reference: Helping kids cope with exam stress | Kids Helpline