“A happy mind is the secret of a good marksheet.” – Narendra Modi
Children of every generation have associated exams with fear, anxiety and stress. And, for those attending board exams, these feelings are further exacerbated by knowledge of the fact that the marks they score will stay with them forever.
But, examination-eve pangs aren’t just limited to children. They are felt in equal measure by parents as well in the form of feelings of anxiety, irritation and fatigue, and physical ailments like headaches and insomnia.
In his book, ‘Kids pick up on everything: How parental stress is toxic to kids’, David Code says, “…children can ‘catch’ their parents' stress just like they catch a virus, soaking up the stress that pervades a household until their developing nervous systems reach ‘overload’. Then kids act-out or get sick.”
Therefore, it is very important for parents to make conscious efforts to maintain an environment of peace and calm, as high levels of stress can profoundly affect a child’s performance in the exam. As the paper ‘Exam Stress’ by the Child Development and Adolescent Health Center, VIMHANS, puts it, “The idea is to function with a level of stress that is life enhancing, not life threatening.”
Here are certain Do's and Don’ts to help parents cope with exam-time stress:
- Diet: Keep the diet simple and nourishing. Avoid food that is too heavy and makes the child lethargic. Provide small healthy snacks. A nourishing trail mix of dried fruits and nuts is a good and healthy snack.
- Exercise: Physical exercise releases endorphins – the body’s happy hormone. So, help your child put together a study schedule that leaves adequate time for her to exercise and recharge.
- Home environment: Put all stress-inducing conversations on the backburner. During exam time, do not reprimand your child for trivial issues like messy rooms or not keeping things in their rightful place. The main motive should be to keep the environment at home congenial and conducive for the child to feel relaxed and study.
- Interpersonal relationships: Gently encourage your child to talk about exam nerves. For example, his feelings or the way he is preparing to achieve the result he expects. One of the most important things to reinforce to the child is that exams are not the end of everything. It is just a means to gauge where he stands and work on improving himself further.
- Social life and relationships: To encourage your child to limit his social interactions during the exam season, take the lead by reining in your social life. Some of the things you can do are, avoid throwing parties at home or attending get-togethers, keep phone conversations with friends and relatives short, watch TV or listen to music at a low volume. Keep yourself busy with something fruitful like household or office tasks to encourage your child to stay focussed on his primary responsibility.
- Stick to routine: Following a routine is very helpful but do not set down rules for your child and insist she follow them. Collaborate with your child to come up with a daily routine. This will be far more beneficial and easy for the whole family to follow.
- Psychological well-being: Keeping an open environment for your child to speak her mind will help you understand her emotional state. If you feel that your child is anxious and stressed, try to instil in her a sense of positivity with some pep talk.
- On the day of the exam: Make sure your child eats a light but filling breakfast. When it comes to going to the exam centre, some children feel anxious or pressured when their parents accompany them there. So, do ask your child if he would like you to drop him at the centre . One parent I know would always leave a sticky note with an inspirational quote on the bathroom mirror for the child to read the first thing in the morning during exam time. Little things like these are wonderful ways for positive reinforcement and confidence-building.
- After the exam is over: Once the exam is over, do not talk too much to your child about how she performed and the result she expects. But, to help your child learn from the experience, you can ask her whether she would like to try and do something different in the next exam. Remember, life is all about moving forward. So, help your child focus on the next challenge instead of ruminating too much on what has already happened.
- The time of the results: On the day when results are supposed to be announced, reiterate to your child you are proud of the effort he put in, regardless of the marks he scores or the grades he obtains. Also, remind him that to do better, he needs to compete with himself.
Exams are meant to challenge our children and help them move forward. Even if your child doesn’t achieve the grades he aspired to, plenty of alternate options for future studies do remain available to him. As parents, we need to make sure we are there to guide our children towards putting in their best. If you ever feel that you are overwhelmed by the thought of how your child will fare in exams, do not hesitate to talk to mental health experts like psychologists or counsellors.
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