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life learning
by Edmond Chan
Childline Supervisor

The summer brings with it warmer weather, longer and lighter days and the inevitable stresses of school exams season. The worry of revising or not getting the grades they need can cause a lot of anxiety for young people.

This pressure means that a lot of children turn to Childline for help as they struggle to cope.

Last year our volunteer counsellors at Childline saw an increase in the number of counselling sessions they delivered about exam result worries compared to the previous year. Between April 2021 and March 2022, they delivered 781 sessions to children with worries about their exams – 30% more than the previous year.

One 17-year-old boy told Childline: “I want to do so well in my A-levels but it’s all just seriously overwhelming at the moment. My attention span has been awful lately, and I find it so difficult to concentrate and focus, and as we get closer to exams the stress increases. After I’ve finished revising, I find it so hard to switch off and then I begin getting loads of intrusive thoughts. It’s like I’m stuck in this vicious cycle and I can’t seem to escape from it.”

Exams can feel like a lot of pressure, no matter where the pressure is coming from.

Here are some tips to help young people cope:
Think positively
When we feel anxious, we can start thinking things like ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m going to fail’. It can be difficult but try to replace these with positive thoughts such as ‘this is just anxiety, it can’t harm me’ and ‘relax, concentrate – it’s going to be OK’.

Be honest about how you feel
Sometimes people can put pressure on you without even realising and sometimes it can help to talk about how it makes you feel. Talking about things can help you to think about other ways they can support you in the future. If you’re worried about telling someone, you can always talk to Childline.

Don’t compare yourself to your friends
Competing with your friends can help to keep you motivated. But it can also make you feel like you’re not good enough, especially on social media. Try keeping a list of the revision you’ve done so you can see how much you’re achieving.

And here are some tips for parents and carers, to help you to be there when your children need you most:

Watch for signs of stress
Stress can be good sometimes. It can help us to work harder and focus. But it can also have a big effect and make it hard to cope. If your child is feeling stressed about their exams then they might be:
• Struggling to sleep.
• Having negative thoughts about the future.
• Getting headaches or feeling unwell a lot.
• Not eating because of how they’re feeling.
• Always thinking about their exams or worrying about them.
• Not able to enjoy things anymore.

Stress affects everyone differently but if you’re worried about your child let them know they don’t have to cope alone. Speaking to you, another adult they trust, or Childline can really help.

Talk about what’s happening
Talking about how they’re feeling can reduce the pressure and help them to feel more in control. Why not suggest they try:
• Talking to you or another adult they trust.
• Asking a friend for support.
• Getting advice and support from other young people on Childline’s online message boards.
• Speaking to a Childline counsellor.

Find ways to relax and take breaks
It’s important to take regular breaks and find ways to relax. Taking a break can leave you feeling more able to cope and even make it easier to concentrate when you start working again. There are lots of things children can do to take a break and relax, such as:
• Set a timer to take a 20 minute break every hour so they don’t forget.
• Make sure they have something to look forward to, like a treat or an activity they enjoy as a reward.
• Encourage them to plan when they’re going to start and finish their revision, so they know when to stop.

Stay healthy
• Make sure they don’t skip meals and try to eat healthily.
• Exercising can clear the mind and give them more energy. Suggest they play sports, go for a run or do some yoga.
• Urge them to practice self-care – this means finding things that help them feel calm and relaxed, such as taking a short break or getting some rest.

Exams are very important, and we really want young people to do their best. However, it’s important to remind them that if things don’t go exactly according to plan there will be lots of other opportunities for them to express themselves and succeed.

It is vital that young people feel supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period to help them do the best they can.

Childline is also here 24/7 for any young person needing confidential support and advice. Children can call and speak to one of our trained counsellors on 0800 1111 or visit for more information.