Life isn’t easy for a child preparing for boards, and the last thing they need are anxious parents to add to their distress. While it’s natural for parents to want the best for their child, there is no denying some parents tend to go overboard and end up doing a disservice to their child during this crucial period.
A recent survey put Indian student’s stress levels as higher than ever, with the onus on pushy parents. ‘Two-third (66%) students reported that their parents pressurize them for better academic performance,’ it said.
Farrokh Jijina, previous Assistant Director of Samaritans Helpline, Mumbai, a suicide prevention helpline where for over 12 years he helped stressed and anxious students cope better, says, “Parents are the prime reason why children call a help line. If parents stopped goading, pushing, pressuring, comparing and wanting to live their lives through their children, children would be less stressed.”
So it’s imperative parents stay calm, supportive and ensure children a study friendly atmosphere at home. Here’s how counsellors recommend you can facilitate this.
Beat Board Exam Anxiety
With your child’s board exams just weeks away, it’s natural your nerves fray, but beware, “Parental anxiety will transmit to your child,” warns Swapna Nair, Counsellor & Psychotherapist at Sanctum Counselling Services, Chennai who suggests these six ways to beat exam anxiety.
- Conversation between parents regarding child’s exams should be in private.
- It’s not the time to work on the weak points. Instead, strengthen the strong points so that they get the best mark in that topic.
- Avoid scolding and labelling. The child has enough stress from the school and among peers. Don’t burden them with your dreams and expectations.
- To remain calm mothers focus on nutrition, and healthy diet to keep child hydrated and well fed.
- Put child on light, home cooked food, two weeks before exams.
- Eight hour sleep will lessen anxiety.
Support, Don’t Hinder
As tempting as it is to hand-hold them, remember children on the threshold of boards are capable of responsible study. The idea is to ‘be there for your child,’ and not ‘get in their way.’ Showing support according to Jijina, “Could simply mean listening to your child, without judging.”
Or, like Chandrika R. Krishnan, a certified counsellor and educator, who dabbles in writing believes – let the child state their need.
"My daughter wanted me around when she took the boards to enable her to iron out the tough content in various subjects, but my son promised he would do well if I would be nowhere in the vicinity. Both did equally well."
Eliminate Performance Pressure
As a parent who’s experienced this, you have a wealth of advice that will benefit your child. Except, avoid passing on your trepidations, suggests Krishnan, who says,
"Parents are underplaying their own boards and making exams particularly boards out to be monsters. Instead parents can say, ‘hey I too went through all these and though it’s a generational difference, not much has changed. If competition was not so stiff then, so also were opportunities.’"
Anjana Mallik Gupta, teacher and parent believes society puts added pressure on parents and children, and says,
"Realistic expectations that don’t stem from seeking acceptance in society, or fear of being judged by society, will help reduce performance pressure."
Coping with Fear of Failure
Children don’t need to be reminded of the ramification’s the board exams will have on their future, but they need to be reassured that exams aren’t about marks alone. It’s also about learning and growing. By playing it down you won’t undermine the importance of these examinations, or make children less competitive. You help your child feel that it’s just another part of life.
Children are the best judge of their capabilities, their strengths and limitations believes Jijina, and his advice to parents is as follows:
- Set realistic goals given your child’s capacity. If unable to achieve those realistic goals, examine where they are going wrong.
- Do not blame yourself or your child.
- Children must know life is not always smooth and to be prepared to deal with failure.
- Be supportive when you help children cope with failure, yet stay firm and do not mollycoddle.
- Avoid statements that decimate a child’s self-worth.
Study! How Much?
Children prepare study plans well in advance, according to their unique need and learning capacity. Just because someone WhatsApped you that their child is burning the midnight oil, or has enrolled in extra classes, or studies holed up in their room – doesn’t mean your child must follow suit.
“I have known parents who prepare a 3 hour question paper to ensure that their child completes on time and keep a timer too. The slow writers need to be prodded earlier in their academic life and not when they are about to take their exams,” says Krishnan, who urges parents to work out a study schedule with their child according to the child’s need, without comparing with others through social media.
Nair is against total curfew that entails no TV, internet or chatting with friends, which could impact negatively and make children resentful and rebel intentionally. She recommends trusting children and allowing them to connect with close friends with whom they discuss revision work, and seek support. She asserts,
"Some children keep away from screen time voluntarily. Some children need the breaks. So discuss limits and understand your child’s learning method. A half hour of screen time or music is alright. Or an hour of sports."
(Lesley D Biswas is a freelance writer who writes articles on parenting, environment, travel and women, besides fiction.)
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