No matter how much you prepare for exams, the pressure is firmly on and often the anxiety can be overwhelming for both students and their parents.

However, according to St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, anxiety is not always a bad thing. Colman Noctor, Child and Adult Psychotherapist says, “Anxiety can motivate us and spur us on. Therefore it is not a realistic goal to eliminate anxiety; rather the goal is to manage it.”

So what can parents do to manage both their own anxieties and that of their children?

The best approach to supporting a young person through the anxious exam period is to follow their lead. All young people are different and experience their environment differently so it is best to ask them what they need in order to support them effectively.

Instead of worrying if your child is working hard enough or working too hard, focus on creating a stress free environment for students that allows their hard work to pay off.

Avoid piling on the pressure at this stage, rather manage expectations of both yourself and your child. Encourage your child to be open and honest about their anxiety levels and facilitate open and honest communication.

Always remember to support the effort. At this stage there is little value in going over what the young person could have done or discussing the option to repeat. Acknowledge and focus on the work that has been done and provide reassurance.

Reassure the young person that the examiner wants to find out what they do know as opposed to what they don’t know. Young people can feel overwhelmed and anxiety tends to focus the mind on the gaps as opposed to the work completed. Be the other voice in this regard.

Remind the young person that THIS WILL PASS. There is no person in the world who still suffers from Leaving Cert anxiety 20 years on, although some of us will still dream about it, we have got over it and they will too.

Remember the most important ‘A’ is an ‘A’ in emotional health.

Paul Gilligan, CEO at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services says, “We know that 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental health disorders and that by age 13, 1 in 3 have some type of mental health difficulty, by 24, 1 in 2.

It is therefore vital that we pay special attention to the emotional needs of our young people at this time of year. It’s our job as parents to protect our young by letting them know that exams are not the ‘be all and end all.’ Exam time is stressful but with the right attitudes and support, every student can flourish.”

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