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Exam stress: How parents can help their kids
Shilpa Shet
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February 14, 2007

Are you worried about the HSC exams? Are you having sleepless nights? Are you not eating well? Are you feeling constantly irritable?

And� are you above 35?

If you have answered yes to all the above questions, you definitely are the parent of a student appearing for the HSC exams. It's more than likely that you are emotionally stressed too.

Many parents literally relive their exam fever through their children's exams.

Veena Upadhyaya, a resident of Mumbai, whose daughter Sneha is appearing for the HSC exams, says, "I get up everyday at 4 am and wake Sneha up. She then freshens up and I make hot chocolate for her. An hour later, I give her something to eat. I know she gets hungry�"

Veena has her routine fixed around her daughter's exams. She has taken leave from her bank job. She also plans to drop Sneha off to her exam center during the exams.

Sohan Menon, a software professional from Bangalore says, "I remember my parents always were more tense than I was, during exams. There was an atmosphere of utter gloom at our place. I didn't mind their support but sometimes I felt they overdid it."

He recollects that during his exams, his parents would sit with other parents and discuss the syllabus and their children's routines. "Sometimes it was very unsettling. They have to realise that an HSC student is not a kid� we knew what we had to do," he adds.

Notwithstanding children's perceptions, parents are as worried as their children. "The competition is so high. We want to give our children all the help they require," says Veena. "Our routine does not matter."

And that's where most parents make a mistake. With so many high-strung emotions at play, each person in the house needs to take care of his or her own emotional need. While the child's emotional need is the most important, parents also need to focus on their emotional needs.

Most psychologists say that parents need as much help as their hardworking children. "The entire attention is so focused on the child that parents give little care to their own needs," says Rita Shah, a counsellor from Mumbai, "So many times, I have had to deal with post examination depression or health problems in parents. What the parent does not realise, is that if they face any problem, invariably it is going to affect their children."

How do exams affect parents?

The emotional stress that the parents go through can lead to one or more of the following symptoms:

How can parental stress affect children?

If a parent is getting unduly emotionally stressed due to the child's exam, the child is likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

How can parents avoid this?

Parents can provide emotional support to their child by keeping a few simple things in mind:

~ Be affectionate but don't make the child uncomfortable with over-attention. A hug in private just works fine.

~ Spend some light moments with your child. It could be sitting at the dinner table and sharing some jokes with the family.

~ Forget about an exam as soon as your child has appeared for it, ruminating over it is not going to help you or your child. Inculcate the same in your child.

~ Spend some time together with your partner.

~ Do one thing that gives you joy or happiness every day. Encourage the same in your child.

~ Do not set down rules for your child; let the child follow his or her routine while studying. Nevertheless, you can always assist your child in coming up with a routine. For example, if your child says he or she is likely to sit up late, ask whether he or she would need anything. Do not stay up unless your child wants you to.

~ Focus on the child's and your own nutrition. Remember not to cook food (like halwas, biryani, etc) that will make your child lethargic. If you do prepare these foods, see that your child eats in moderation.

~ Provide guidance when it comes to your child's social interactions during the examination. For example, if you feel your child is wasting a lot of time talking to a particular friend; gently steer your child towards his/her pending lessons.

~ Be a good listener.

~ Help your child with positive thoughts.

~ Keep the atmosphere at home stable and congenial.

~ Encourage discipline in your child. Guide him or her in maintaining a time table.

~ If you or your child is experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, remember to meet a counsellor or psychiatrist immediately.

~ Remember to reinforce your child's confidence if he or she is going to face or has faced a tough paper.

~ One of the most important facts to reinforce to your child is that the exam is not the end to everything.  There are many things the child has to look forward to.

Important links

Queries on Exams Answered by an Expert
Articles for Parental Stress

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