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With the sun bearing down on us in the middle of March the heat is really on. But I wasn’t quite referring to that. I am referring to the exams and the stress of it. With the exam season on, especially the boards, the stress in the environment is palpable. The panic calls shoot up and there is an increase in parental concern over their children’s performance.
The most pressing concerns and cases are where parents wish to know how the child can do better, which study technique might be of help, how can they get more marks and finally how they, the parents, can help. All very genuine and well meaning concerns, yet there is much to be figured out here. Ever so often it is the parent who is equally, if not more, stressed out and needs to be counselled in order to help the child.
Children need to be guided and assured of their preparedness and of their abilities so that they do well. It boosts their confidence. They need to be advised on sleeping well and eating enough. They need to be encouraged to de-stress by indulging in small breaks without feeling guilty about it. And finally, they also need to be reminded that it is just another exam. Yes, it is!!
But in most parts parents need to be reminded of a few things as well. This is the time when often the students are stressed out and edgy. The most well-meaning concerns are often misinterpreted. Often children may also become irritated and snappy. Bear with them. They are walking on tight rope. This phase will pass over. A few small but significant things that can ease out the situation are what you need to bear in mind. Particularly those parents whose kids are writing the board exams.
· Be the provider – Children due to appearing for the boards are generally preoccupied with their studies and often fall out of schedule. Do not nag them on that. Be tolerant and patient. Be around to hand out stuff, remind schedules, wake them up on time, etc. Simply put, offer help but don’t be hovering around. Let them know that you are available 24x7 for anything they need. But otherwise, just let them figure out things for themselves. This is also a part of growing up.
· Trust your kids - Believe that your child understands his/her role and responsibility in life and is fully aware of what is expected of him/her. While it may appear that he is not bothered, it is not true. The environment that they live in is rife with discussions, revisions, practice papers, competition and more. There is no opportunity for them to forget what an important exam this is, so do not bother to remind them about it again and again. It stresses them out even more.
· Study skills – Most of the schools today impart study techniques and provide guidelines right from the onset of the final year at school or junior college. Children are pretty much conversant with them. If you wish to really participate in his/her preparation, begin early. Enroll the child into the idea of approaching you for certain aspects of his study preparation like orals, vivas, projects, etc. which keeps you involved yet not really leading. Let the child lead as he is on a path to discover what works for him/her. Avoid jumping in at the last minute and downloading instructions as it disrupts their own study plans and puts them in a dilemma of following your instructions or not.
· Be the stress-buster – Bring in a sense of easiness into the household. Let there be laughter and light moments in the house just like any ordinary day. Be the sunshine in his otherwise loaded day. Like any adult who returns home after a hard day of work, know that they too are working hard throughout the day. Let them have time to unwind and revitalise. The home is their haven. Let them be.
· Be positive – Even when the child is putting up a casual front, know that on the inside there is worry and fear. It’s never over until it’s over. Avoid any kind of negative comment. Avoid threats at all costs. Avoid passing your stress to them. It breaks their confidence in themselves. Be matured and handle your stress for their sake. Be confident of your upbringing.
· Be realistic - Know your child and his/her abilities. Not everyone is meant to be an engineer or a doctor. Let your child be the best of what he/she chooses to be. Be realistic in your expectations. Know that they are doing their best and be okay with that. In that context know, understand and appreciate your child for who they are and the effort they put in. It is not the marks or percentage but rather your belief and acknowledgement of their efforts that makes them achievers in life. Look at the larger picture.
Exams are indeed a very important part of children’s life. It sets them up for the challenges of the future. It paves the path that they will walk and often defines the quality of life they may have. As parents we wish the best for them and therefore wish they do well in everything.
But what we also need to remember is that while these exams are a significant part of their life, it is not life itself. Life, as we know it, will put forth many other challenges that will not be resolved by any of these qualifications. What they will need at those points in time is self-esteem, self confidence and the ability to make choices and decisions, independently and rationally. These exams are also opportunities when children discover these qualities within themselves. So let them be.
Lead them on ever so gently into the path of discovering and embracing their individuality. After all that is what our role as parents is, isn’t it?