Childline’s advice for managing exam stress

School exams are looming and some children are feeling the pressure after two years of Covid lockdowns and predicted grades.

Mairead Monds, Team Manager at Childline NI explains how parents and carers can help manage stress in young people.

Mairead said: “As the GCSE and A-Level exams are now in full swing, we know that this can be a difficult time for both children and parents, especially with the effects of the pandemic still being felt.

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“It’s the first time in two years that school children in Northern Ireland have had to sit exams - the pandemic meant that GCSE and A-level examinations were cancelled in both 2020 and 2021. However, last September, some normality returned to the classroom and our volunteer counsellors at Childline have been speaking to lots of anxious children who are worried about their looming tests and results.

“Our Childline practitioners delivered 1,734 counselling sessions to children and young people, across the UK, who had concerns about exam stress and revision in 2021/22, which was a 62% rise on the previous year. When talking to Childline counsellors about their upcoming exams this month, children shared that their worries were affecting their mental health, anxiety levels and ability to sleep. “Some young people also shared that they were struggling to focus and concentrate, find the motivation to study or were feeling the pressure from parents and teachers.

“As a parent, the most important thing you can do is to remind your child they’re not alone. Be supportive and help alleviate any worries by talking to them about their exams positively and praising their hard work. Try not to put unnecessary pressure on your child to achieve high grades and remind them it’s not the end of the world if they don’t get the grades they wanted, as there are always other options open to them. We all want our children to succeed, however our own wants can sometimes be the trigger to these issues, so try to reassure them that everyone’s different and it’s not necessary to compare themselves to friends.

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“When it comes to revising, try to give your child space and time to do so, and encourage them to take regular breaks, eat snacks and exercise. Try to be relaxed about chores or untidiness and understand they might be moody. If you are worried that your child is struggling this exam season, perhaps talk to their teacher with them about what steps can be taken to help them through this period and what is being done at school to support students.

“If they are finding it hard to talk to you, let them know they can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice on 0800 1111 or The Childline website has a range of support for young people, including a safe and moderated chat area for young people to discuss their concerns with others their own age, and the Calm Zone which has been a great source of support for children and young people during the pandemic.

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“If you’re a parent or carer with concerns about a young person’s wellbeing in the run-up to or after receiving their exam results, our Helpline is also available to offer guidance and support on 0808 800 5000 or [email protected].”