By Kartik Bajoria
Examination stress, that absolutely dreaded social menace, plagues children as much as it does parents. Not only does it take the joy out of education and learning, in its most extreme form, it can have dire consequences. Children today are under tremendous pressure to obtain unreasonably high marks. Consciously or unconsciously, this pressure is applied from all quarters – school, friends, family, society. The result is psychological mayhem and even permanent scars.
As responsible and mature parents, what then can we do to alleviate this modern disease, and how can we best prepare our children to tackle and overcome examination-related stress?
Assurance and validation
Like with most things in life, a child’s universal centre is you, the parent. A child seeks not just validation but draws strength, courage, conviction, most everything from a parent. From the outset, if a parent assures the child that he or she is loved no matter what, irrespective of marks, this will go a long way in keeping them free of stress. Talk to your child and assure him/her that you truly believe that marks are not the be all and end all, and that they are loved unconditionally.
Marks alone don’t define anyone
While this suggestion might sound similar to the first, it is quite different. Of course, both call for sustained interaction with the child; here, we must convey to the child that marks alone neither define intelligence, nor their personality. They are important, but by no means are they the singular measure of a child’s worth. Often, in the absence of this ethos being communicated from the outset, children grow up to believe that exam results alone determine their self-worth. This thinking needs to be changed, and it can only be done if it is consistently communicated from the very beginning of a child’s school-life.
Sometimes as parents, without even realising it, we compel our children to study constantly, especially in the lead-up to an examination. We need to check ourselves, and subsequently our kids. Explain to them that studying 24/7 is as ineffective as putting an entire tube of pain-relief cream on a wound – neither will they prepare better for the exam, nor will the pain go away any quicker, respectively. In order to preserve their sanity, perform well and de-stress, they must take breaks. Go out and play. Watch a film. Listen to music.
One of the best and most well-chronicled stress-busters is physical activity. A game of tennis, a run, anything that gets the endorphins going, is welcomed by the body. A great workout is often less about physicality and more about relieving mental pressure. Encourage your children, especially during exam-time, to always get in a workout or a robust physical activity. It will automatically make them calmer, less wound up and generally instill a sense of well-being and confidence.
Stress on sincerity, not marks
As long as a child understands the difference between hard work and top marks, he or she is much less likely to be stressed. The problem arises when all the focus is on that seemingly elusive 90 per cent and not on putting in one’s best. Kids need to be made to understand that it is the latter that is of consequence, the former is then best left to higher powers!
Rest and sleep
Arguably the most vital physical and psychological requirement leading up to and during examination time, is for kids to get adequate sleep and rest. The body and mind need to switch off so that both get a chance to recuperate and revitalise. The worst thing during this period tends to be studying past the dead of night until the early hours of the morning. It can create the illusion of preparedness but in most cases, it severs the opposite purpose. Rest. Relax.
Exam-fear has gripped the entire nation. If only we could explain to our children that missing the magic 90 is not going to be the end of the world, we could save them from permanent damage. However, while that might be difficult to do, at least we can try and create an environment that doesn’t stress them further so that they may be naturally aided, at least at home, in overcoming and combating exam stress.