Good academic performance is considered very important in our society, and all parents wish that their children perform well in academics. How well a child is doing in studies and how intelligent he is, is gauged by the marks obtained in exams. Consequently, preparing for and writing exams, coping with post-exam anxiety, and waiting for results expose the child, and the parents, to a lot of stress. So, let’s look at how to deal with exam results stress. Here are some ways in which both the child and parents can deal with the increased levels of stress they experience before the announcement of board exam results.
Avoid discussing the results: Discussions about the marks you expect your child to score can increase your worries, stress and anxiety levels. It can also make your child feel that you will love and value him only if he meets your expectations.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations and don’t be over-excited: Although your child may be good in studies, the fact is, not every child can be a topper. So, don’t get over-excited by expecting your child to be among the toppers. It is okay if your child secures good marks, as academics is one of the many facets of life.
Stop worrying about social norms and expectations: Your child’s exam results do not define your social status or standing in the society. So, don’t fret and worry about what your friends and relatives will say if your child doesn’t score well.
Don’t indulge in comparison: Don’t compare your child with his peers, or his own achievements of the current year with previous performances to come to a conclusion about the marks he may obtain.
Watch for signs of stress in your child: Children experience a tremendous amount of stress while waiting for results. Some of the common signs of stress are complaints of headache or stomach ache, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, not enjoying activities they previously enjoyed, and displaying signs of hopelessness. If you see any or some of these signs in your child, try to soothe his anxiety and lift his spirits. You can assure him by saying things like, “We know that you have given your best, and we are and will be with you no matter what the result is.”
Engage in conversation while waiting for the results: Post-exam discussions and thinking about how you answered the questions can dent your confidence and cause you to worry. In such a situation, instead of keeping your fears to yourself, try to speak with family members or friends about how you are feeling. Don’t be embarrassed to tell them the causes of your distress. In case you don’t feel comfortable revealing your feelings to others, you can seek help from numerous online resources.
The day prior to the announcement of the results: Stress levels are highest on the day before, and the few hours prior to the announcement of results. During this period, avoid taking stimulants like coffee or energy drinks, which can increase the stress level. Also, try to stay away from social media and other sites where there is a lot of excited discussion about results, as reading what others say may sometimes perturb you. Read your favourite book, watch a movie, go for a walk or engage in some physical activity to take your mind off the results and relax.
On the day of announcement of the results: Students usually want to be alone when they see the results and then break the news to others. But it would be a good idea to have your parent(s) by your side. They can help you calm your nerves as you anxiously search for your roll number. Also, in case the results don’t meet your expectations, or things go wrong, they will be there to extend the much-needed support.
If things don’t go as planned: ‘DO NOT PANIC’. Scoring low marks is not the end of the world. You can appear in exams again the next year and achieve a better result. Speak to your parents and teachers, or those you confide in, and find out what you should do next. There are many famous achievers who didn’t succeed in their first attempt, but that did not dishearten them. They kept trying until they succeeded. So, motivate yourself and pull up your socks for a better result the next time.
As parents, it is your duty to make sure your children do not unduly fret or worry before the results. Keep in mind the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ words, “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” Take a tip from this quote and ensure that your children enjoy the sunshine in their lives and do not worry about the dark clouds.
Most parents are aware of how their children are doing in studies. So, the expectations they have from their children should be based on previous performances. They should also use this knowledge to support and reassure their children during the stressful time before the results are announced.
Parents should appreciate the dedication and sincerity of a child who has worked hard to prepare well for the exams. They should reassure her that she will not be judged based on the marks she obtains. And, no matter what the result might be, the entire family would be there to support her.
When parents know that their children didn’t prepare well, they shouldn’t expect them to secure high marks. In fact, they should speak with their children and tell them that once the results are announced, they will get together and plan the future course of action.
Some children are poor judges of how they performed in the exams. These children sometimes have high expectations. Parents of such children should talk to them and make them understand that they should have realistic expectations.
Also, parents should understand that there can be many reasons for a child not doing well in exams — not preparing well, being overwhelmed by anxiety and fear in the exam hall to mention a few. Parents should remember not to vent their frustration or anger, and not indulge in comparison or finding faults – before or just after the results are out.
- Dr Vasuki Mathivanan is a counselling psychologist. She is the President of Chennai Counsellors' Foundation (CCF).