Exams are here again, and so is the slog for the kids. Last year, my elder son had his 10th Board Exams. If you live in India, you would understand the hype around Board exams which are essentially exams held at an all-India level and corrected by Central Board authority and not their school teachers. Some parents start stressing over these exams from as early as 8th grade. Many of us worry that if our kids do not score well then they will not get admission in good colleges and will have their future dreams scuttled. This is, of course, untrue, but when you are in the shoes of parents you start getting these irrational thoughts. It is important that we help our child through exam stress.
Here are some of my tips to help your child through exam stress:
1. Help them have a calm study area
Clutter adds to anxiety. Help your child have a calm and quiet study area where they can study peacefully. Ensure that your activities do not hamper them when they are trying to focus. Having a designated place to study helps them concentrate better and get into the mode of grasping concepts.
2. Help them address the stress they feel
While I don’t overtly monitor how my kids are studying except from periodically checking if they are on track, I do notice that they feel stressed out. Sometimes they are dejected when battling a lot of portion or particularly difficult concepts. There was a time when my younger son was in tears when revising as he felt that he was forgetting a lot of stuff. I spoke to him encouraging him that he will do better when he actually sits down for exam. I also asked him to take a break, maybe go and walk outside or listen to some music. It may help calm him down. Taking periodic breaks and talking it out helps sometime. Sometimes they may snap at us or at others. It is important to help them feel back in control and confident. It is definitely not a time for lectures but more of empathy and soothing understanding.
It always helps to tell them that exams are not everything. That them trying their best is what matters the most than marks. Meditation techniques like deep breathing also help my kids feel calmer. Most important stay calm yourself.
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3. Take care of their needs like food, sleep and other activities
I was surprised to read that many kids were studying for hours on end without breaks or any recreation. It has been my experience and that with my elder son that one does not need to forget every other activity when studying. That makes you tired, worn out and takes you longer to study. Let your child try to sleep well, eat adequately and do activities like walking, reading, watching something recreational etc. My son during his Boards read books and watched movies along with regular walks with the family. There is no need for the child to be cloistered inside the home. When they are relaxed they can study better.
4. Stress on the importance of hard work and systematic studying
I was a systematic and methodical student. I would prepare daily study time table at least a month before the exam date. Not to mention how I studied regularly and all through the year. My elder son is an extremely fast learner and hard worker too though nowhere as methodical as I was. I have been telling him how breaking down a whole into smaller units of study helps reduce stress and approach studying in a better manner. My younger son has flitting attention spans. He tends to study closer to exam dates. Also he finds it hard to sit down and study and gets easily distracted. I have more rules for him. I also help him make a daily study time table to encourage him to study daily and regularly. Cramming last minute is not the right way to study and slowly he is getting to realize that. Hence tailor how you can help your child depending upon their ability and attitude.
5. Back off
I have seen that a lot of parents get overtly stressed out and over involved. I know that this comes from a place of good intention, but it can harm your already stressed child. Do not over burden your child with your instructions and minute-by-minute involvement. Through the years, help your child go through exams and later discuss with them the lessons learnt and mistakes in approach that can be improved. Over a period of time, your child will get better equipped at handling studying for exams. As a parent, I like to be involved yet hands off. They are free to approach me if they need help. But I have stopped doing revisions or setting papers for them. I value self-study. I think it benefitted me immensely as a student. And my younger son is now into self-study. He faces issues but is getting better at it.
All said and done, exam time is a stressful time for both parents and students. I hope my tips can help your child through exam stress.
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Do share with me how you help your child get through exams and address your own fears and anxieties.
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