Dr Adarsh Kohli, a professor of clinical psychology in the department of psychiatry, PGI, speaks to Indian Express
Exams are approaching and students are under a lot of stress to score well. As a doctor, how do you see this?
Their child’s academic achievement is a major expectation as far as parents are concerned. They unknowingly or knowingly pass on the message to the child that they want him/her to become an engineer or a doctor. Even though overtly they do not verbalise but in their minds, they want their child to excel in studies. The child’s anxiety is directly proportionate to the parent’s expectations. The more the gap the greater is the stress. This stress has an accumulative effect at the time when exams are near. Children who are bright, disciplined, who are goal-oriented, may not feel as much the stress as children who are average, who are facing academic difficulties or have difficulties in a particular subject may feel stressed and nerved up. Such children may not be able to study effectively.
What are the symptoms?
Students under stress will have symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, headache, butterflies in the stomach, inability to concentrate. They cannot sleep soundly and wake up with anxiety ridden dreams of losing their I-cards or roll numbers or dreams like going blank on reading the question paper. A child who scores are below average, or who has not prepared his lessons well, or who kept postponing his revisions may also feel threatened and stressed.
How you see the role of parents? What can a teacher do to help the students?
The child when is stressed about exams should have the full support of his parents. Parents should be available for the child for any difficulty, caring need, putting alarms, helping the child in every way that they can be it food, discussion on a chapter, or’ just being there’ in case he might need. Parents should cut down on outings, movies, engagements, guests during this time. One should avoid critical comments, demeaning remarks, negative expressed emotions.
Remain positive and supportive and try to get the optimum out of the child. Any negative comment may lead to the child to feel low and he may forget all that he knows. Teachers have to be helpful and supportive too. They have to ready for any subject related query and avoid last minute cautions too.
What is your advice to students?
A good way to relax is breathing exercises. Relaxing by walking in the fresh air, talking, discussing, can be a breather too but the child knows best what suits him. Do not give sermons at the last moment or say what is there to stress. Take it easy. Parents should be their normal self and do not show that they are overdoing it. They should remain calm too because the stress gets transferred from the parent to the child.
One needs to read carefully, learn by underlying the main points, space out difficult and easy chapters, revise thoroughly by writing or verbally or both. A complete time-table should be prepared and adhere to it as far as possible. Learning and memorising are unique and individualistic to each child. Mnemonics and associative learning should be used.