This week, a survey from BBC Children in Need revealed that 68% of 11 to 18-year olds felt that young people’s mental health had deteriorated over the past year, whilst one in three said they would feel uncomfortable seeking help for feelings of anxiety, stress and depression if they needed it.
While we’ve definitely made amazing progress in breaking the stigma and opening up the mental health dialogue – particularly thanks to amazing campaigns like this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week – there’s still some way to go to ensure all children feel comfortable and confident in vocalising the worries and mental health issues they are experiencing.
In particular, we know disruption to school and exams has been especially difficult for children doing their GCSEs and A-Levels this year. With this in mind, we wanted to share some useful resources and tips for parents to help their children cope with exam stress, which we really hope will go some way in helping them strike the right balance between study and self-care during this unusual time.
Getting the admin sorted
Although assessments look a little different this year, even in the absence of the typical exams schedule, using some key planning tools can prove really handy in helping them map out a clear study plan to see them through the summer term. If they don’t know where to start, BBC Bitesize has a great revision plan template they can download for free, and their website also offers some handy tips on how best to set this out.
Of course, this doesn’t have to be rigid or followed to a tee, but they may find that by giving their study an element of structure, what initially seems overwhelming suddenly feels that bit less daunting.
Though it may perhaps sound cliché, there really is nothing better for clearing a cluttered mind than a walk in the fresh air – especially with the chosen theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week being ‘connect with nature’.
If the usual walk around the block is leaving them uninspired, there are plenty of great online resources and apps out there to help them discover different routes and connect with new surroundings: for instance, WalkingWorld has 6,500 walks to keep you busy, whilst National Trust’s website offers more than 1,000 of the prettiest, most picturesque routes.
If the UK weather has other plans, thankfully there are a whole host of mindfulness apps and tutorials that they can use to get some mental space from their study. We’re particularly keen on MindShift, a free app to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety via relaxation exercises, and Smiling Mind, which offers a free set of mindfulness activities exclusively devised with young people in mind.
Speak to others
Sometimes when it comes to talking about exams, it can be hard for parents to know exactly what to say. Handily, there are a couple of great resources out there to help mums and dads navigate this conversation, from podcast Teenage Kicks, which offers useful, parent-led advice, from families that have been through the exams cycle themselves, to Young Minds’ parent 101 on helping children cope with exam stress.
Similarly, whilst teenagers might find comfort in reaching out to friends or family, some may prefer to confide in someone impartial about how they are feeling. The Mix is a fantastic organisation who are always there to lend a kind, non-judgmental ear to teenagers and young adults, and they can reach out via whichever channel they feel most comfortable with, be that webchat, phone or email.
Have your children done something special at school to mark Mental Health Awareness Week? Feel free to send in any useful tools or guidance they’ve received that could help other parents – we’d love to hear from you.