Student Mental Health and Addictions Newsletter - January 2023

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Managing Stress during Exam Season and the Winter Months

Dear Families, 

In this edition we will focus on student mental health for the upcoming exam season, and winter months. The tips and strategies offered in this newsletter edition can also be beneficial for younger learners/elementary students.

We want to acknowledge the nerves and worries that can accompany a new exam season in secondary schools, and provide some guidance for supporting your children at this time.  During the exam season you may notice some changes in your child’s behaviour, which may include, but is not limited to, your child(ren) feeling low, overwhelmed, having challenges with sleeping, an upset stomach and increases in fidgeting. These responses are experienced by many, as there can be pressures to achieve certain grades and competing activities that do not allow for adequate study and rest time. 

Helpful strategies to support your child(ren) as they get ready for exams/tests: Studying strategies are different for every person, and supporting your child(ren) to discover what ways they understand information best can help reduce worries. They may need to talk about it, create a mind map, draw it out, make up a song, etc. Get creative!  As caregivers, you can play a large role in reminding your child(ren) that they are more important than the results they get on an exam.

Set up a study space and time: When setting up a study space we encourage you to support your child to find a quiet space and to take regular breaks throughout the study session. 

Check in with your child(ren): if you are able to remind them to ask for help or clarification if they need it, and remind them it is okay to be nervous and worried about exams. 

Tips for coping with Stress for children: Stress is something your body feels when you are worried or uncomfortable about something. It is a part of life, and there are times when stress can be helpful and give you energy or motivation. It can be helpful for your child(ren) to be aware of their thoughts and feelings. An example of how you can support your child with this is asking how your child(ren) feels when studying, or what they think about the material.  Everyone experiences stress in their lives to different degrees.  It can be helpful to learn strategies that help manage and cope with stress levels, and remind them about those strategies. As a caregiver, you may be able to model different strategies. It is also good to remember that you won’t be able to take away all the stressors your child(ren) feel, but you may be able to help to minimise the impact. 

Supportive tips that foster healthy habits: Encourage your child(ren) to eat a healthy breakfast, to sleep well the night before, reduce junk food and aim to reduce caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon. If they are feeling tired, water and exercise can help increase energy. If they feel worried before the test/exam, encourage them to take deep breaths, or better yet, do some deep breathing with them. This can help slow the heart rate and calm the body. 

Test Taking tips to Share with your child(ren): When they sit down for test/exam, it can be helpful if they take time to slow their breathing and relax, read through the test/exam paper carefully, underline key words and instructions, work on the questions that they find the easiest first, make sure they have time to review their answers at the end, talk to their teacher if they need more help. 

Please visit the following links for more exam stress tips. We recognize not all of these tips will be possible for everyone or will be possible all the time. They are merely suggestions that can be helpful if needed.

Exam Stress Tips:

  1. Student Minds- Supporting Exam Stress
  2. Helping Your Child Beat Exam Stress 
  3. Kids Helpline, What is Exam Stress
  4. School Mental Health Ontario
  5. Kids Help Phone- School 


  1. Stress management and coping - Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource - This resource is class based however has skills that could be applied at home.
  2. How To Address Test Anxiety - This resource provides understanding to Test Anxiety, and how students and families can support themselves. 
  3. Mental Health Literacy and Anxiety Management Social Media Bundles - School Mental Health Ontario - Literacy of Mental health and coping skills  

We encourage you to take a look at the following resources to explore self care activities for you and your family.

  • Take 15 minutes just for you - Canadian Mental Health Association guide to short 15 minute activities to boost emotional, physical and mental health. 
  • Self-care 101 -This tip sheet provided by School Mental Health Ontario, provides information for students on how to take care of themselves when they are going through difficult times. 
  • Winter wellness: Canadian Mental Health Ontario's Family Care Centre’s helpful tips for a better mental health in the coming winter


Supportive Resources

YorkHills Here to Help Line (905-503-9561) 

  • The Here to Help Line is a free service available to children/youth (0-18 years) and their parents/caregiver/adult supporters.
  • Monday to Thursday from 2:00p.m-7:00p.m 

Family Services York Region (905-895-2371)

  • Virtual walk in is operated on a first come, first serve basis, and can be accessed once per month.
  • Virtual appointments can be 15 minutes to 1.5 hours long depending on your specific needs.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

YRDSB Mental Health Resource Page

  • Continue to check out the YRDSB website for updated information as well as the Twitter account @YRDSB
  • Follow YRDSB Mental Health on Twitter @MH_YRDSB


Free Community Events

York Hills Centre for Children, Youth and Families 



  • Coffee Night, held every second Monday of the month, is a safe space where members of the LGBTQ2 community, their friends, family or allies can come together. Registration can be found here  


Mental Health Team

This edition of the Newsletter was written by the Student Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Implementation Team 2022-2023, inclusive of YRDSB School Social Workers Afsaneh Zafarani,  Kate Phillips and Nicole Gough.


Patricia Marra-Stapleton, M.Sc., C. Psych. Assoc. 

Mental Health Lead 


Hoshana Calliste, M.S.W., R.S.W

Assistant Coordinator of Mental Health


Paula Vicente M.S.W., R.S.W.

Assistant Coordinator of Mental Health 


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