Caroline Wilson is GOOD Morning Wilton‘s student contributor. A sophomore at Wilton High School, Wilson gives us her perspective on the stress caused by midterms (which run Jan. 19-22), and how parents can help their children cope. In addition, there’s a discussion group about teen stress at the Wilton Library tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 7-8:30 p.m.

While many Wilton adults are focused on keeping New Year’s Resolutions and trying to shed those unwanted pounds gained over holiday break, their WHS teens are focused on other things—namely, midterm exams. These exams cause an alarming amount of anxiety for high schoolers, especially those who work, play sports, and have other extracurricular activities that demand a large portion of their time. As someone who is subjected to the horror of midterms, I can say with complete certainty that this is one of the most stress-ridden times in any kid’s school career.

Being there for your child during exams can alleviate some of that stress. However, many parents don’t know exactly how to handle a kid “under the influence” of midterms. Here is what you need to know for surviving exams with your student.

Firstly, understand that there are a few different types of students during midterms.

  • The most common is the “typical stressed-out kid” who is studying for a least a few hours a day per subject.
  • Then, there is what I like to call the “over-confident over-pressured.” This student talks about how he doesn’t need to study, or how he doesn’t care about midterms. But deep down, he’s secretly terrified of not doing well.
  • “Hyper-studiers” are less ordinary, but are found in ample numbers in Wilton, especially in the higher-level classes. As the name implies, these are the kids who are constantly studying, sacrificing sleep, meals, and even showers to cram.
  • The rarest of them all is the “calm kid.” Unflustered, she goes through midterms with grace and poise, carrying out life almost normally. Her stress level is minimal-to-none, and she’ll keep a positive attitude throughout the entirety of exams. Calm kids are like unicorns; I’m almost positive they don’t exist. If you find one, please contact me immediately.

The most important thing you, as a parent, can do during midterms is make sure your child’s basic human needs are met. This means sleeping, eating, and keeping up with their hygiene. I know this sounds simplistic, but often these everyday tasks are fogotten as math formulas and vocab words flood their brains. Even if your kid isn’t a hyper-studier, he may skip meals, pull all-nighters, and forgo showers to review notes.

Sleep is the most important thing to keep tabs on, especially if you do have a hyper-studier. Enforce a reasonable lights out time. Very few people are effective at 3 a.m., anyway.

Keeping your students well-fed is a bit more tricky. It’s essential they are fed healthy, full meals. Letting them munch on Doritos and guzzle Red Bull while they’re cramming is a bad idea—the sugar will make them crash, and it’ll make returning to normalcy much harder after midterms. Opt for veggies, fruits, pita chips, and hummus (or any healthy snacks, for that matter) when grocery shopping that week.

As for hygiene…sometimes, telling teenagers outright that they smell is the best way to get them to shower or brush their teeth. The student sitting next to them during exams will thank you.

If you are a parent who believes that the family has to eat dinner together every night, be ready to let it slide. Your kid is not going to want to leave whatever haven she’s made for studying, and even if she’s somehow coaxed outside, she’ll most likely be thinking only about school and not paying attention to the dinner discussion.

Put an extra calculator in his school bag. Forgetting a calculator on your math midterm is how you get a C. Trust me… I know.

Let me warn you:  there will probably be some point in the week when your high schooler lashes out at you. Don’t start an argument. His stress has been building for a while, and he needs a release. Better to let them take it out on you than on their teacher. Just back away slowly and let him be for some time.

I don’t know if it’s just my parents, but my attire is always reviewed (for “decency”) before I leave the house. They want me to look nice and dress appropriately at all times, but especially at school. At this point, however, they throw that expectation out the window. Sitting in a hard chair in an uncomfortable environment for an unbearable 90 minute period of stress isn’t fun. Plus, it’s freezing outside. Wearing our favorite sweatpants with an old hoodie and some soft shoes is a slice of heaven in the middle of hell.

There are some classes (usually social studies and language classes) that, rather than administering a test, ask students to give presentations. If your child asks if she can practice presenting to you, PAY ATTENTION. Be a respectful audience and give her feedback, even if you can’t speak a word of Spanish.

Ask if he wants help. Even though he may refuse right away, he’ll appreciate the offer. And you’d be surprised—it can be great bonding time.

In all seriousness, putting pressure on your kid is unacceptable. Telling them they need to study more will hurt them (we know we can’t study enough to prepare for midterms). Remember, these tests are small in the big scheme of things. It shouldn’t change their self-worth, and you need to let them know that.

Midterms—they’re not fun for kids or parents. Getting through with minimal stress is the trick to survival.