Exam and exam tension go hand-in-hand. But nowadays, this feeling describes a state of continuous stress and its resultant problems.
Examination means different things to different people. To school children, it is an ever-present ogre, threatening their very happiness and influencing their daily lives in myriad ways. To parents, it is the gateway to their children's career and financial well-being. To the teacher, it is a means of evaluation. Both the parent and the teacher abet each other in pushing the children towards a goal which they perceive as 'ideal'. However, this goal may or may not, in the long term, coincide with a child's aspiration.
In the past, one believed that a well-prepared student (as in a first or second ranker) would be affected by exam stress. But, today's competition levels do not spare anyone.
Stress management tips to beat exam pressure
With exams around the corner, as parents, what can we do to help our child de-stress?
While long-term solutions are ideal, in the month of February, we can take some temporary measures to contain exam pressure.
Have sufficient sleep: Staying up late into the night and having just 4 hours of sleep are a big no-no. Even during exam time, a child must get his required 8 hours of sleep, adjusted to 6 hours for teens only for a special test, and not for the entire examination duration. Adequate sleep gives the brain the time to recoup and retain whatever was imbibed earlier.
Recollect: Learning anew anything on the eve of the exam is neither practical nor useful. This period should be utilised only to recollect whatever was learnt over the year.
Relax: A short nap after returning from the examination hall or some form of relaxation is a useful tool to unwind and feel fresh. The ideal situation would be to allow the child to be outdoors for an hour, playing games. Outdoor play releases serotonin, which is a stress-buster. If other children aren't around to play with, you can take your child for a long walk. But, during such times, avoid talking about exams or any related matter during this time. Incidentally, this will make you feel relaxed as well. You can also encourage your child to sing or listen to classical music, which is another known stress-buster. This would also help him concentrate better.
Avoid caffeinated drinks: It is best to avoid caffeinated products like coffee, tea and aerated drinks, particularly the power drinks advertised for athletes. Traditional brain boosters (even if they won't do much for the brain!) like health drinks are better options. (Please don't kid yourself that a child reared on these would be the next Einstein.)
Don't skip breakfast: A warm bath and a good breakfast is another must-do activity. A hungry belly does not provide enough nutrition for the brain. So, discourage any ideas that the breakfast is a waste of time and only a glass of milk or health drink will do. It won't.
Have a healthy diet: A healthy diet for the child and indeed the entire family helps. While planning a menu, add your child's favourite dishes to help him eat better.
Allow snacking: Children like to indulge in snacking while studying. So, do keep handy snacks like popcorn, fresh fruits and nuts. Avoid giving fried snacks. But, if fried snacks rank high up as favourites, you can add them in small quantities.
Gauge stress levels: If your child has stomach cramps or feels nauseous, these could be signs of high exam stress. A heart-to-heart talk with your child is necessary during such times. However, this is best done in a relaxed atmosphere and the first requisite is that you should be calm and relaxed. If the situation persists, enlist the help of a professional either immediately or soon after the exams for long-term solutions.
Revise: Ask your child to mark out chapters that he thinks need extra attention. Have him devote more time to these and ask him to skim over the chapters he is confident about. This, of course, is a personal preference and each child must come up with his own strategy. It is best to be organised through the year.
Before entering the exam hall: Encourage your child to first identify and answer the questions he knows answers to, instead of wasting time in answering questions he is not confident about. Remind him about writing his roll number and trying to keep aside 10 minutes to quickly review his answers and so on.
Do not indulge in post-mortem: An important stress-buster is to avoid a post-mortem of the paper done and finished with. It is a total waste of time and may cause a great deal of anguish to both you and your child, trying to calculate the lost marks. Simply hit the delete button and look at tomorrow.
Organise work and play: Let your child make a resolution (and help him keep it) for the next year's strategy. Books should be kept in an organised manner. Homework, reading, revising, assignments, prep work should be done regularly, and without a pile-up.
With studies, give equal emphasis to outdoor play too. However, such play, (particularly if the child is going to special classes for physical activities and music) should not be performance / competition-oriented. For, this could lead to even more stress.
Respect your child's choice of course of study
A well-known individual who was studying to be a doctor went to his mother with an invitation and a scholarship to study music. She said, "Show me your MBBS degree and then you can do what you want." This individual went on to complete MBBS, but never worked as a doctor. Instead, he became a world-famous musician in his genre. His name is Dr L Subramaniam.
Parents, while all our children may not become the world's best in some field or the other, they have the right to make choices and work in the sphere they want to. Today's world is indeed a global village and no longer do the good, the better and the best exist in the choice of professions. Multitudes of youngsters study in one field and take up careers in a totally different one. So, do keep an open mind.
And lastly, water finds its own level. A check dam can marginally improve performance, not drastically. No amount of tuition can increase a child's performance from 60% to 99%. As a long-term strategy for your child's well-being, help him to be organised from the beginning of the school year. Also, observe and identify areas where his aptitude and inclination lie and encourage him to develop those skills. Above all, remember, your child is an individual in his own right.