Exams: Trial for the child, and the mother too! How to cope?
Created by Aparna Balasundaram Updated on Jan 13, 2020
Here’s a simple question for you: ‘Who is more nervous about the upcoming exams – you or your child?! Giving it some thought? The fact: Exams weigh heavy on not just the child, but on everyone in the family, even the pet! ‘It’s all too much, even my dog is getting all whiny,’ shared a mother friend of mine; her son’s forthcoming tests were starting in ten days.
As a parent, it is natural to be affected by your child’s exam anxiety. On the parallel end, you have your own thoughts too – ‘What if s/he doesn’t do well?’ And you also have to take care of your child’s preparedness in every respect – it can take a toll! So what to do?
Well, there’s hope! Based on research and learnings of parents who have braved the exam monster, here are three proven and practical ways to help your child and self…
1. The Right Food: Your child may skip meals during this time and instead reach out for junk food and sugary drinks. I would say indulge them once in a while (being too strict does not help), but on a regular basis, nutritious meals are a must. So when your child is pestering you for a soft drink or a pack of chips, be ready to offer some tempting alternatives such as homemade noodles or burger, a wholesome cup of nutritious hot chocolate (2 tablespoons of Horlicks chocolate flavour in a glass of milk – your child will thank you for it!), crunchy nuts or fruit custard. Balancing diet, sleep and exercise is the cornerstone to reducing exam stress – for you and your child.
2. The Right Attitude: The problem is not with ‘exams’ per se, but with the attached thoughts. Most children fall prey to a negative thought process: “Do I know enough?”; “What if I get a question I can’t answer? or “What if I fail?”. It is easy to get stuck in a downward spiral, end up in a panic attack and actually blank out in the examination hall.
Behavioural science research has proven that when we ‘reframe’ the way we think in a positive manner, it impacts the way we feel and act. One way to do that is by ‘visualising success’. Ask your child to close his/her eyes and think of a time s/he accomplished something that made his/her happy or instilled a sense of pride…tell your child to run that event in the mind, capturing how that made him/her feel. This exercise helps to beat the stress out of the situation; your child has tasted success before, s/he is now reaffirming the same – and can do it again! And the same goes for you. Every time you find yourself struggling with anxiety about your child’s performance, imagine an anxious moment in your life and how you came out of it.
3. The Right Environment: Your attitude and behaviour equips your child for life’s challenges. Understandably, you have a natural concern for your child’s future, however at times this concern may overplay in your own mind and you may end up nagging your child, when all you wanted to do was nurture! So be aware of what you are saying or doing. Some of the things that may help are – not questioning your child about how much of the syllabus has been covered every time your child takes a break; ensure healthy food/snacks and lots of water (this goes for you too); remember your child may be more irritable than usual – so respond with empathy; instill confidence by reminding your child about his/her strengths – and yes, give a tight good night hug.
Facing exams is a universal truth of life. Yes, it is. Remember, you have been there yourself and fared well – and so will your child. Relax and take a deep breath, wear your positive attitude and be the calm positive parent your child deserves!