Exam fever grips India; stress busters for parents, students & guardians

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Nearly 31, 14,821 candidates have registered for Class 10 and Class 12 board examination to be conducted in 2019. Add to this the ICSE board and the state boards and what you have is a mind boggling 1 crore students! This may be an approximation but to imagine such a big number of students sitting for examinations itself can create stress!

March in India is examination time. Even though all schools conduct their internal annual exams this time, it is the 10th and the 12th board exams that are the most crucial.
The class 10th board exams are the first all India exams that most kids across India take. The pressure and stress to perform and do well, hovers on kids year after year. In fact, sometimes the stress is so high that it not only impacts them mentally but physically too.
Health experts have, from time to time, lashed out at the education system as also the parents and the larger periphery for attaching such significance on exam performance.

So, with March just around the corner, what is it that parents and friends can do that helps children take exams with the right mindset, strength and confidence, without worrying about the outcome.

What is exam stress?
Stress is a negative reaction when excessive pressure/demands are made on a person or situation.

Why is stress created during exams?
Some of the reasons for stress can be the fear of failure, unrealistic expectations set by parents and teachers, a sense of unpreparedness, past feedback, anxiety to perform & competition with other children.

Is stress unrealistic?
Absolutely. Even though it cannot be eliminated completely, the level of stress can be controlled if the child and parents want to. The entire framework around the child, needs to support them. Exams are one of the yardsticks of success, but not the only one.
This mindset has to be drilled inside. A positive urge to perform should be higher than the negative pressure to perform.

How can exam stress be managed?

Set realistic expectations – it is important for the child and parents to sit down and have a realistic conversation. Past performance in school exams can give a fair amount of idea of what to expect from the child. Set the expectations accordingly. Don’t expect overnight miracles to happen. A frank talk will ease off the burden.

Sound sleep and healthy eating –
Often a common phenomenon during exams is that children give up healthy eating habits and sleep minimal in order to focus on studies. A very wrong trend indeed. Cutting down on food intake and not letting the body get adequate sleep will only break it down further. Parents should encourage kids to eat and sleep, so that they are healthier to cope with the exam pressure.

Study breaks are important –
Encourage your child to take adequate study breaks. Ask them to go for a walk, meet friends, watch TV or read a story book or just do nothing – all this helps the mind stay stimulated positively.

Seek timely help –
There are many times that children need help but at the last minute, are shy of asking. Encourage them to seek help even till the last minute. This gives them the confidence of knowledge.

Talk, talk and talk –
Be involved with your child’s preparation. Know what they are studying and how. Their level of preparedness shouldn’t come as a last-minute surprise. The more you talk and tell them your experiences, will their confidence and moral go up.

Make a strategy for the way forward, together –

Let your child know that you are with them at each and every step. Discuss their plan, the way they have allocated time to study each subject etc.

Highlight the areas that are strengths for them and let them focus more on them. Demarcate time for the weak areas so that they can be strengthened. Knowledge of areas of improvement is critical – it helps the mind react positively to them. Parents need to ensure this happens in advance and with due diligence. 6 out of 10 students don’t pay attention to their strategy and lose out on marks.

How to attempt a paper, smartly –

Help the children understand how to answer an examination paper. The school must be doing their part, but for parent to get involved in this process is critical too. Suggest them to start with questions/sections that they are most comfortable with. Also, picking on sections with more marks/weightage can help gain and even if there is less time left, the gap in marks can be minimalised.

Post exam openness –
Most times it is the post exam stress that also works strongly on the psyche of kids. Let the know that its ok to make mistakes. And that come what may, you are there with them.
Criticising them will not help. Kids are most vulnerable at such times and they need your backing.

Look out for warning signals –
As a parent and guardian, it is critical to keep your eyes and ears open. Address any issue that you feel is away from normal. Change in appetite, sleep upsets, fever, health issues etc have a reason.

Future does NOT depend upon exam marks only –
A parent needs to be aware of the language, sentences and speech they use. Sometimes, remarks like, ‘Your future depends on this’, ‘what will you do in life if you get less marks’ and ‘look at your friend, is so serious about studies’, can be disastrous. This sets the wrong expectations for kids.
Be mindful of this.

Examinations are just another stepping stone in the larger picture of life. Let it remain at that.

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