Examination Stress: A symptom or the cause
|   Mar 19, 2017
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Examination Stress: A symptom or the cause

This is the time of the year there is a sudden hype in the environment related to “Stress”. From the Prime Minister to the chief Ministers, principals, educationists, media, to the whatsApp groups all seem to wake up to the stress in children’s life due to examinations.

There would be stress management techniques being shared – eat well, sleep well, share, relax a bit, play a bit and everyone would have a suggestion or two for students on how to manage their stress.

More often than not everyone is blaming the parents to ease out and release the stress, making the parents the culprits. Schools, teachers, children themselves start looking at parents as the devils behind this. Every parent knows the negative impact of stress on their children and even the extent of the damage it causes, and even in their wildest of dreams parents can’t even think of damaging their children. So why is it that the parents end up doing what they really do not want to?

So, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that examination stress is not because of the examinations – the examination system nor the heightened anxiety levels of parents and teachers during the final examination days. It’s the

And the bad news is that stress levels are increasing over the last decade despite our efforts to lower it. We are trying to fix the symptom i.e. what we see as a peaking of stress in these 2 months vs. the root cause. It’s like trying to fix the fever being caused by cancer rather than acknowledging and addressing the cause of the fever.

To decode this we would need to look at certain fundamental belief systems and practices

Over the last decade the world has transformed i.e. our children are living in a completely different world vs. the world we grew up in. The media, the connectivity, the exposure, the technology, food, communication channels etc everything is different. But we haven’t changed our methods of bringing up children.

Secondly, our society is based on comparisons: everything is a comparison from the color of the skin (dark or light); performances in examinations (excellent, good, average or poor); tastes (too sweet to too bitter); heights (tall to short) etc. all are based on comparisons. There is nothing absolute. Hey! Don’t read these as if I am making comparisons wrong (well right or wrong that too is a comparison)

I am not saying that comparisons are wrong and we should not compare. Comparisons are comparisons – they have their pros and they have their cons. All we need to do it to understand them, acknowledge them, see the impact of it and then make a choice.

One of the biggest myths we have in parenting is that comparisons motivates! Our parents used it to motivate us and we have been using it to motivate our children. Well, if you close your eyes and bring alive a situation where you were adversely compared to your sibling, your classmate, your friend or a colleague. Notice the feeling it invoked. More often than not we felt humiliated, did not like the person who just did that and even started feeling hatred towards the person we got compared too. That’s stress which got seeded right there!

Can we count the number of times we were compared to our siblings, friends, parents themselves, classmates and the list goes on. Comparisons exist like the air we breathe.

The issue with comparisons is that – our height is fine till the time someone else is taller; our skin color is fine till the time a fairer person is around; our salary, our car, our house, our phone etc if fine till the time the person with us does not have a better one.

Examinations and results are the time when this entire build up of comparisons culminates. My son got 87% marks and these appeared to be good till the time I got the news that my cousin’s son has scored 94%!! And my reaction was read loud and clear by my son – that’s stress being nurtured.

We, in our unconscious ways of bringing up children the seeds of stress get sown and nurtured.

We all are born with unlimited potential and we all are unique. No one has the nose I have, or the ears I have, no one smells the rose the way I smell them, no one has the thought and feelings I have, no one eats, sleeps, writes, think the way I do. Lets acknowledge the uniqueness of every child, every human being on this planet.

Let’s acknowledge every child for his / her uniqueness, and yes we want to motivate them. Let’s start the culture of improving on ourselves from the level we were at yesterday to the next level. Let’s play the game of beating ourselves. Create game of setting our own targets and pushing ourselves to move up on them.

The other major factor of the examination stress is associating stress with studies. Learning (studies) can never be stress. It’s purely the context we have for studies which creates the environment of ‘have to’ and ‘stressful’ when it comes of studies and examination. Learning is exciting, intriguing and engaging. Can you imagine Newton, Einstein, Edison bored studying their subjects and experimenting for their discoveries and inventions. By creating a new context and methodology around studies we can make studying exciting, intriguing and engaging for each and every child.

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