Exams can be a stressful time for children, and as a parent, it's important to support your child in managing their stress levels. In today’s increasingly competitive world, experiencing exam pressure is natural. While sometimes stress can be helpful and act as a motivator for students and children, excessive pressure may lead to anxiety and nervousness. Often, these nerves lead the child to feel numb and disoriented, creating an adverse impact on their mental health. Parents often keep their child’s interests in mind and believe that they understand what's best for their child (and of course, most times they do), however, it’s important to acknowledge that certain stress mitigation strategies can do more harm than good. (Also read: How to lessen post-exam anxiety in children: Expert offers tips )
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Yesha Mehta, Psychologist at The Mood Space, suggested some healthy ways for parents to keep children stress-free during exams.
1) Remain stress-free yourself
Exams are stressful, not only for children appearing for the exams but also for their parents. And as we know, children often mimic their parents and learn how to manage a crisis situation from them. At such times, it’s important for parents to remain calm when communicating with their children.
2) Validate their stress and anxiety
Dismissing your child’s stress and anxiety will only make it worse. It may make the child feel misunderstood and invalidated. Let your child know that stress and anxiety are real and that it is okay for them to feel that way. Talk about it with them without judgement and without discrediting their emotions. Instead, help them learn how to overcome negative thoughts that may be causing them to feel that way.
3) Help them learn some basic breathing techniques
Work on breathing techniques they can use while writing their exam which will help them feel more grounded. Simple exercises such as asking them to visualise and enact smelling a flower; and the action of blowing a candle can help them feel relaxed, especially when they feel anxious. Additionally, basic breathing techniques such as the boxed breathing technique can help them feel grounded too.
4) Fill up their tummies with nutritious food
A balanced diet goes a long way in keeping energy and concentration levels high. Junk food could help elevate moods for a short amount of time but would result in fatigue and lethargy soon after.
5) Focus on the process instead of the outcome
Exam pressure often comes from the want for a good score. While that is important, focusing on learning and the right reasons for studying is more crucial. During this time we often forget that each child is unique and comes with their own set of strengths.
6) Encourage positive self-talk
Exam time leads to feelings of inadequacy in children. They often look down on themselves and end up comparing themselves with their classmates. As a parent, it is necessary to encourage positive self-talk and remind the child that their grades do not define them.
7) Refrain from comparison
Living in a society, it’s natural to draw comparisons, and exposure to social media only makes it easier. With this, children are often pressurised to be their ‘perfect selves’. As a parent, one needs to recognise that every child moves at their own pace. Refrain from comparing your child to another and intervene when you hear your child doing the same.