What sad reading this makes. Exams have always been stressful, for some people more than others, yet it is horrific to think that they are causing such severe problems among some young people. I guess the advice to parents from this is to back off. Help if you can by being positive and assisting if requested but not by putting the pressure on. It’s great to pass exams you’ve worked hard for but we all know that life goes on if you don’t do as well as you hope. We’ve probably all been there at some time, and the disappointment is tangible; however, there is always an alternative pathway and another solution.
As new figures from the NSPCC have been revealed as children all over the country prepare for their exams, Childline has delivered 2,795 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2018/19 – with around a third taking place in April and May. It’s a stressful time of year.
Young people who were stressed about their exams told Childline they were worried about disappointing their parents; trying their best and still failing; having excessive workloads and feeling unmotivated to revise.
A teenage boy told Childline:
“I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much stress that I find it hard to motivate myself. My friends are studying a lot which is putting me under more pressure. I’ve tried talking to my mum but it ends up in an argument as she gets angry when I don’t study.”
Other young people told Childline counsellors the prospect of taking exams was having an adverse effect on their mental health, with some coping by self-harming and others saying they were feeling suicidal.
The most common ages for exam stress counselling were with 15 and 16-year-olds, as they worked towards their GCSEs.
Childline is free and available 24/7, 365 days a year for any child or young person that has a worry or concern.
Children from across the South West of England turn to Childline when they’re in need of support, and this can include concerns over exam stress.
Childline is urging all young people to speak out if they are stressed about their exams, especially boys as figures reveal they are five times less likely than girls to talk to counsellors about the pressure they are under.
Anna Williamson, Childline counsellor and writer of teen book, How Not to Lose It, said: “It is vital that family, friends and teachers are there to support children and teenagers during this stressful time.
“My advice to parents would be to never say: ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’- children won’t care and it isn’t about you. Also never compare siblings. What you can do is ask if they need anything, say you are proud of them and offer an end-of-exams celebration to help them visualise it being over.”
The NSPCC has recently received over £2million thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which will help Childline be there for more children who need help with exam stress or other issues.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “I hated exams, and I absolutely understand why they stress so many young people out. They can be important, but they shouldn’t be overwhelming.
“That’s why it’s vital that Childline is there to support any young people who feel the pressure is unbearable.
“This funding thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery will help us answer children who need us so that we can be there for them when they have no-one else to turn to.”
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 or www.childline.org.uk any time of the day or night.