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Help your child get through NCEA study stress

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Hi there,

I’m worried about my son. He wants to get into an architecture course and for that he needs really good credits, which is making him majorly stress out about his final NCEA exams. He’s sometimes awake until two in the morning and he’s getting really grumpy. I never thought I’d do this, but on the weekends I have to tell him to go outside and have a break. I think the stress is going to make him sick and actually make him do badly.

Dad of stressed son,

Temuka.

Hi Dad of stressed son,

Stress is rotten, as while a bit of stress can motivate and get us on task, too much can destroy our bodies and make us give up. We want our young ones to be motivated to do well at NCEA but we don’t want them to get sick, or so stressed they blank out during an exam.

Your support at this time is invaluable to your child. These tips should help you help them manage their stress.

Kick off with good planning

Sit down with your child and help them make a plan for the weeks leading up to their exams.

Set up an exam space

Set up a quiet space with equipment such as a computer, pens, notepaper, highlighters and good lighting. If that isn’t possible, investigate quiet places to work like a library, cafe or friend’s place. 

Make a wall chart

Make a wall chart with all the days leading up to the exams. Block out the exam days. Colour code it so it’s easy to read. Give a colour for each subject.

Break down the tasks

Make a list of the work your child needs to do such as:

  • read information about the exam, including where and when it is
  • check out websites that give tips on exam study
  • review classroom notes
  • learn formulae
  • make study cards
  • memorise dates
  • practise essay writing
  • practise mock exams
  • do a final review of their notes.

Break these tasks into 20 minute lots with five minute breaks in between, and put them onto the wall chart. Match each block to their subject colour.

Add life to the wall chart

Block in a routine on the wall chart like breakfast, music practice, exercise, hangout or chill time.

It’s vital your young person learns they need to balance their life during difficult times, and that having a plan will free up their headspace for study. Remind them to reward themselves with breaks, and praise them when you notice they're sticking to their plan.

Pay attention to the physical

Stress is hard on the body. Cortisol and adrenalin can be released, and if not dealt with can lead to illness, fuzzy headedness and depression. The only way to relieve stress is with healthy eating, regular exercise and good sleep.

Chat with your child about how important it is they get at least eight hours sleep each night and that they exercise every day. You might like to walk, cycle or run with them each night after dinner, and police when they go to bed.

If your child is feeling a moment of high anxiety, advise them to get up, go outside and do a quick, intense burst of activity such as running on the spot or jumping jacks. Then advise them to take five deep breaths to release tension.

Put it into perspective

Young people can struggle to put their life events into perspective. They may think that missing NCEA credits or doing badly at exams is the end of their dreams and a failure they can’t recover from.

Take time to listen to what they think will happen if they miss some credits. Reassure them they are doing their best, and help them see they have a wider life outside passing NCEA.

Let them know there are always options if things don’t go to plan – such as repeating credits or doing summer school.

Pick up support

There are plenty of resources for students to get help with NCEA stress.

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