According to the 11+ exam website, it is estimated that approximately 100,000 children sit the 11+ exam in England each year for around 15,000 places, giving each child a 1 in 6 chance of gaining a place.
Each school chooses when they hold their exam. Most grammar school exams occur in or around the September of Year 6, while most independent school exams take place from November-January of Year 6…and it is exam season right now.
Effects of exam stress on children's well being and performance
40% of students experience exam stress and anxiety. It is real and I see it working as a school counsellor.
In the weeks leading up to exams, I notice how the stress impairs memory, reduces concentration and can lead to panic attacks. When children experience a state of chronic stress, it takes a toll on their bodies. Their heart starts racing, their breathing gets shallow, their palms become sweaty, and they often feel like a ship being tossed around in a stormy sea.
Physical manifestations of stress are worrying for parents to witness - from headaches, stomachaches and changes in appetite to sleep disturbances and even nightmares.
The psychological impact on children is like being on a roller-coaster ride that you didn't sign up for - mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
To top it all off, stress acts like that sticky gum on a child’s shoe that slows them down academically. It acts as a barrier, stopping them from performing to the best of their ability, obstructing their learning, and creating that vicious cycle of stress-performance-stress. It’s like being stuck on a hamster wheel of doom! It's a tough battle for the little ones to fight.
Parents want the best for their children and are not always aware of the impact on their children. It is no wonder I get phone calls from frantic parents asking me to help them and their children.
The Underlying Connection between Mind and Body: Explanation of the mind-body connection
Cutting edge research from Harvard Medical School suggests significant links between mind and body, impacting both physical health and mental well-being.
Stress essentially stems from the mind. The mind-body connection essentially means that our emotions and thoughts can cause physical changes in our bodies.
Effective solutions: Exploring the Power of Relaxation Techniques
In my book “Your Happy Child, 10 Proven Steps to Raising a Happy Child” I talk about how relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices, have been proven to alleviate stress in children. The first thing I show children how to do is to breathe. I call it the 424 breath. They breathe in slowly for a count of 4 breaths until their belly expands like a balloon, hold their breath for a count of 2, breathe out from the belly first, then lungs for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 2 breaths…all breathing done through the nose. When we teach children to relax properly, they naturally breathe well. This makes the whole body work better and supplies their brains with the necessary oxygen so they can concentrate on their work.
For parents who like some support in doing this, plus have some calm in the home, I have created an online course and you can find more information here.
By embracing these techniques, parents can empower their children to cope with exam pressure effectively and the book contains step-by-step practical activities, powerful techniques and strategies to create an ideal setting for a happy and confident child.
Conducting these relaxation techniques is like drinking a calming potion. It makes your child feel centred, relaxed, and essentially puts you back in control of everything. It's like the stress just melts away into oblivion.
The Role of Parental Support in Stress Management
Parents can further significantly contribute to stress management by creating a supportive and nurturing environment at home. By fostering open communication and encouraging the adoption of relaxation techniques, parents can be instrumental in helping their children perform better in exams. You can check out my blog for a fuller explanation about how parents can nurture their own mindset to help their children.
While introducing relaxation techniques, remember the golden rule - keep it light and keep it relatable. If they're forced or overly complicated, kids will zoom past relaxation straight back into stress-ville.
Through the implementation of tailored and proven stress management strategies, parents can ensure their children are well-equipped to handle the pressures of exams. Encouraging a balanced lifestyle and incorporating relaxation techniques into daily routines can make a significant difference.
By acknowledging the significance of relaxation techniques in managing exam stress, parents can create a conducive environment for their children's academic success. Prioritising the well-being of children during exam periods can lead to improved performance and overall mental and emotional wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions
It's that tug of anxiety, levels of worry, and physical symptoms like headaches, disturbed sleep etc. that children experience during exams.
Relaxation techniques help children manage their stress better, increase their focus, improve confidence, and create a positive mindset, all of which counteract exam stress.
Both can provide a stress-minimal environment, integrate relaxation techniques in routine, and most importantly offer emotional support during this time.
Some common misconceptions include beliefs that relaxation techniques are pseudoscience, they are time-consuming, and they distract from study time.
While they might not make exam stress disappear like a magic trick, they surely can reduce it to a manageable level, ensuring that it doesn't harm children's performance or well-being.
Every journey is different and there is no “one size fits all” path to transformation. I want everyone to feel acknowledged and validated, so I always invest the time to understand your unique situation, to build trust and create a safe space for us to successfully work together.
Together we will build a trusting relationship and create a safe space for your child to make sense of sad, angry, painful, and confusing feelings and thoughts towards more agreed positive outcomes.
Asking for help is not a weakness! We all encounter difficult times at some point in our lives due to societal norms, our culture, upbringing, and our own expectations. Talking to a trained professional will make a huge difference to your health, happiness, and productivity. I offer psychotherapy treatment for people of all ages, gender, and backgrounds.
When someone in the family has a mental health problem or illness, it affects the entire family’s dynamics and behaviours and sometimes parents and other family members don’t really know how to support them…or themselves. Can you relate? A happy and connected family is possible and I can help you to bridge the gap from frustration to fun.
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Parenting is a journey filled with challenges and triumphs. In this wonderful yet demanding role, it's crucial to cultivate a positive mindset to effectively nurture our children's growth. Here are seven principles encapsulated in the acronym NURTURE that can serve as a guiding light to help you to respond rather than react.