Board exam stress: How should parents and children deal with it?

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‘Is it exam time’?

‘Are you feeling stressed’?

‘No hunger, no thirst, no sleep, just an anxiety to perform better’?

‘Parents pressure or teachers’ pressure’?

These are some of the pressures which school children face during their exam time, especially when it comes to class 10th and class 12th board exams.

We often feel “stressed” when we feel that everything seems to have become too much, it’s beyond our control and when we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us. The way we deal with stress says a lot about our health.

Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly under pressure, your body must be in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. Children must be taught to stretch themselves mentally, socially and physically, to bust stress.

A survey was conducted on school students that revealed that a month before the examination, very few students have high stress level but before a week’s time of examination, majority of students have high stress level (almost 80%). It proves that as examination draws nearer, more and more students develop stress. There is always a pressure of expectations from parents, teachers and others as to what will they think if I do not get good marks, which develop stress among students.

We understand that the problem lies in our Indian school education system as well. It is totally textbook- oriented, that focuses on rote memorisation of lessons and demands long hours of systematic study every day from you. A child is expected to study from the morning till late evening, leaving little time for physical activities, socialisation and recreation. The system is seen to be highly competitive because of lack of adequate number of good institutions to accommodate the ever-expanding population of children.

The performance in the 12th grade final examination is seen to be very crucial for getting admission into one’s preferred choice of college or university. The poor ratio of number of available institutions to the aspirants for college education ensures that the students face tremendous competition in getting admission to tertiary education.

Anxiety and Stress in School Children

Mental health problems among children and adolescents are frequent in India as well. It can be seen that the number of anxiety and traumatic disorders amongst children are increasing tremendously.

Anxiety as a disorder is seen in a lot of children and adolescents worldwide. There are a still larger percentage of children and adolescents in whom anxiety goes undiagnosed. Anxiety has a lot of negative effects on children’s social, emotional and academic
success.

Sometimes, anxiety can have extreme consequences such as suicidal tendency. Unfortunately, India has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the world, and the number of students attempting suicide because of exam fear and pressure is increasing. Not only anxiety, even depression is becoming the most common mental health problem suffering college students these days.
It can be seen that high levels of stress can often lead to poor academic performance. Students experience a high level of academic stress due to exams, assignments, time pressure, grade pressure, and uncertainty. This stress seems to have a detrimental effect on their academic performance. Stressed children show signs of emotional disabilities, aggressive behaviour, shyness, social phobia and often lack of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities.
Many adolescents in India are referred for psychiatric treatments to hospitals for school related distress, exhibiting symptoms of depression, high anxiety, phobia, physical complaints, irritability, weeping spells, and decreased interest in school work.
In India, the self-worth of students is mostly determined by good academic performance, and not by vocational and/or other individual qualities. Often children complain that strict curfews and a frigid atmosphere at home add to the stress at exam time. Indian parents report removing their TV cable connections and vastly cutting down on their own social lives in order to monitor their children’s homework. All this increases the fear of academic stress and failure in examination amongst students, leaving no option else to commit suicide. The suicidal rates among adolescents have increased with every passing year.
Here are few of the suggestions on how to optimise your time and effort to do your best.

  1. Sleep well: Do not study through the night before an examination. Your brain should get a complete rest for it to retain information. You should get adequate sleep.
  2. Don’t compare yourself with others: Give yourself enough time. Never ever focus on competing and comparing with your peers, it will only add to your anxiety. And remember, everyone’s different. No two people are the same.
  3. Don’t panic till the last moment: Frenetic last minute revisions before an exam will just muddle you more. Just before an exam, relax a bit, talk to your friends about everything except studies. Even after the exam, avoid discussing the question paper.
  4. Be physically active: Eat proper home cooked food and get plenty of fresh air. Meditate and do yoga which is good to keep your mind at peace. During the short study breaks, listen to the music, sing or dance.
  5. Talk to others if you feel anxious: It is normal to feel anxious during exams, but you must talk about the way you feel. You could share your feelings with your friends, your parents, teachers or a call a helpline. Do not feel as if you are all alone.
  6. Be positive: Exams are a part and parcel of life and though they play an important role, they do not completely determine whether you’ll be successful or not. Success in life does not depend on your performance in an exam but on how you cope with the challenges.
  7. Time Management: While preparing for exams it is important to work with a timeline for yourself so that you can cover the course work comfortably and you don’t have to panic at the last moment.

A short note for the Students:

Board examination should be treated like any another examination. There is no need to feel any kind of undue pressure or anxiety at any time. Keeping things in perspective is one of the most powerful ways of keeping your stress levels under control. In five years down the line, these things are not going to matter, as something positive will materialise.

It’s very important to have a good support system of parents, teachers or other caring adults. It’s always better to discuss your fears, anxiety, reason of your stress or any other kind of problem you face with others. Have an optimistic attitude and do not think negative about yourself EVER. Don’t hesitate to drop helpline numbers a message when you feel unsure or insecure. They are there to help you.

Look after yourself particularly when you are feeling under pressure. Eat properly, sleep well and take short breaks in between to rejuvenate yourself. It’s very important. It helps your brain function at its best. Don’t drink too much caffeine and resist the temptation to eat junk food.

After the paper gets over, don’t discuss the exam with others. Discussing what you did and didn’t do isn’t productive and can make you feel more stressed. Don’t dwell on it, move on.

A short note for the Parents:

Give 100% support to your kids. One of the best things parents can do if their child is experiencing stress is to try to be as supportive and tolerant as possible. Let life run normally.

If you have any kind of confusion, talk to the counsellors and teachers of the respective schools.

Spend quality time with your children and talk to them about their needs, their interests and notice signs of anxiety. Jittery students or those who cannot seem to sit still, are likely to be stressed. Pamper them sometimes. You can prepare your child’s favourite dishes once in a while. It will make them happy.

And if for some reason your child does not perform well in the exam, reassure him that this exam is not the end of the world. Assure your child that to study anywhere else in the country or abroad is always an option and sometimes it turns out to be a great one too. Make them feel that you are there for them no matter what. This motivation and encouragement will boost their confidence to do even better.

Never ever compare your child with any other child. Each child is
unique. Just like not every child is a good dancer or an artist, not every child scores a 90%. Hence making comparisons with other children is not helpful. Each child has his/her own unique abilities and interests. As parents, you must promote their interests and also help them in identifying and working on their weaknesses. Compelling to compete with another child will only put unnecessary pressure on them and confuse them all the more. On the other hand, motivate and encourage them to study for their own benefit and improve upon their last performance.

In the end, I would like to say it’s very important to develop a stress-free environment at home when examination comes closer for better performance of the students. Parents should try to encourage their children as much as possible. And students should keep a positive attitude. Having a right attitude is very important.

Good luck!

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