COPING WITH EXAM STRESS
Around June and November annually, children in most parts of the world, begin writing examinations. I recollect my high school and university days of studying and writing exams. It was a period of total focus with a single-minded purpose of memorising as much as I could of my notes and text books and being able to answer all the questions based on the information. For those 2-3 weeks (as well as the week preceding the exams) life stood still with just studying, studying and more studying….
Late nights and early mornings gave literal meaning to the proverb “burning the midnight oil.” Of course there were certain basic daily routine necessities that had to be factored into the study programme (bath time, meal times, break times and of course chanting – without which I would probably have lost my sanity).
Those weeks seemed to last an eternity but the looming holidays thereafter would give relief to all the stress that had built up.
With this experience and noting that all education systems assess learners by way of examinations, I realise that this is an inescapable part of life. So, my view is that we have to find ways of surviving these periods without adversely affecting our mental, physical and spiritual health.
Even for many adults stressful situations are very difficult to cope with. One can only imagine how the children deal with it. Parents and guardians need to be patient with children during this time. While many older children feel that they don’t need helicopter parents, just gently enquiring about what subjects are being written and when, may provide them with a sense that you are interested in them.
At this time, learners can also feel overwhelmed with large volumes to learn and limited time to do so. Give advice or jointly draft a study time-table, acknowledging and providing for recreation time. Remember a healthy mind needs a healthy body. Time management is critically important to accomplishing ones goals.
Unfortunately, many learners will fall prey to unhealthy destressers reducers such as cigarettes and drugs. It is therefore important to help children with coping skills and recognise their abilities. Parents should not pressure children into studying. The need for studying needs to be explained to and understood by the child. During this busy and stressful time, the parent should show support and care for the child by doing or saying even little things that will light up the child’s day such as preparing the child’s favourite meal, giving the child company by staying awake while the child is studying even if it means just being in a nearby room (definitely not watching television but reading, chanting or even engaging in a noise-less hobby during that time that the child is studying) and bringing him a hot cup of milk and some cookies.
Reassure the learner that he should try his best and that is good enough. Prayer is also very important. Soft bhajan, kirtan and daily meditation (japa) provide good relaxation and positive energy in the person and home environment.
After the exams, comes the stressful period of waiting for the results. Be wary of suicidal notions and provide the necessary support structure. Get help from a professional counsellor. Most importantly show a lot of love.
When children are loved for who they are and their strengths as opposed to being chided for their weaknesses and are regularly praised, it helps them build self-confidence in the knowledge that no matter what, tomorrow will provide them with another opportunity to preserve in a world where persons are unfortunately predominantly assessed by their academic results as opposed to who they really are and what they are capable of contributing to making this world a better place to live in.
It is therefore very important to have regular conversations discussing with the learner that there is a place for everyone in society; all types of skills are required to make society function and that he will eventually find his place where he is comfortable and enjoys what he does …. but school is a phase or a stepping stone to explore and find this place. Every child is valuable in their own way.
If we don’t help our children recognise their value, someone-else may take advantage and misuse the faith and trust that the child places in that person.
Best wishes to all those studying or supporting someone during their studies.