Exam stress and anxiety related to results are not an uncommon phenomenon. We have all experienced it during our academic years, but today the levels are rather alarming.
A survey by The Guardian concluded that 8 out of 10 school leaders say fear of academic failure has lead to an increase in mental health issues around exam time. You definitely do not want to see your child undergo mental or physical trauma abetted by anxiety and stress. That is probably the reason why you have decided to give this post a read!
To begin with, let’s take note of common symptoms of stress in children:
- Insomnia or trouble falling asleep
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains or headaches
- Loss of motivation
These are the most common symptoms you can observe in almost every child who suffers from exam stress. You should, however, also look out for extreme symptoms like:
- Fits of extreme anger
- Screaming or talking to oneself
- Any kind of destructive activity (breaking plates, smashing toys, etc.)
- Giving up on food completely
It can be quite a heartache to see your child suffer from undue stress. To help them combat the unavoidable examination blues, here are 7 quick things you can do:
1. Be flexible – in your daily routine and household chores
Flexibility in your usual day-to-day routine can bring in the much-needed relief to your stressed child. Try not to be finicky about breakfast and dinner timings. Postpone any unnecessary chores to keep noise and commotion at bay.
Make sure you do not invite too many guests during the exam season because it flusters and distracts children. Give up on rigidity in sleeping and waking up timings. Basically, keep every task, every rota of work flexible. This will give your child much-needed comfort of studying at their own pace and at their suitable timings.
2. Bring out the best in their food – gut and psyche are connected!
Food has the deepest connection with mood. Eating good food can surely levitate even the most sunken spirits. It can surely help with exam stress too! But, what exactly is good food, especially for children facing the stress of exams?
Here are some power foods that you must include in your child’s diet during exams (and in general too):
- Green leafy vegetables – fiber helps keep the gut clean and the body fresh
- Roasted, unsalted nuts like almonds, cashews, etc. (extra salt can increase bloating)
- Berries – keep a mix of blueberries, raspberries and goji berries handy
- Fresh fruits – guavas, apples, and watermelons are some healthy options that do not add to the lethargy
- Baked yogurt or flavored yogurt – for those mood uplifting needs sans extra sugar
- Whole wheat biscuits – for energy minus harmful sugar
- Dark chocolate – for instant stress-busting and an antioxidant dose (very useful in combating exam stress)
Here are some foods that are a BIG NO especially during exams:
- Fried chips, French fries, etc.
- Butter cookies, pastries, cakes, etc.
- Processed or canned food
- Any form of sweetened beverages
3. Make physical activity a quintessential part of the day
Even if it’s just a stroll to get some fresh air, make it a point to involve your child in some form of physical activity. Children tend to cling to sofas and chairs while studying and often take nap breaks. But it’s important that they indulge in some physical activity (which must not be too rigorous).
Light physical activity helps in the following ways:
- Keeps the mind nimble
- Distracts the child from exam stress
- Lets you take a break without adding to lethargy
- Stretches out muscle fibers and adds energy to the body
- Doesn’t distract from the main goal and is less time consuming than other forms of mid-study breaks
4. Talk, discuss and affirm that you love them no matter what!
A little pep talk is all we need at one point in our lives. Be that motivational speaker for your child. Talk to them about anecdotes where you faced similar stress but came out of it just fine. Tell your child about your struggles with studies and how you conquered your weaknesses.
Most importantly, tell them that an examination score doesn’t seal their worth in your eyes. Your love and assurance will help your child do better at exams than any other form of motivation. Try not to shut yourself in a room and give your child a pally talk every now and then when they seem bogged down.
5. Help them with the studies in creative ways
Try to participate in the studying process before an exam. You can offer to hear out certain lesson notes or help them make bulleted notes. You can use examples, videos, animations, and other interactive apps and tools to make their end-time studies interesting.
Give them real-life examples from around the house to help them memorize concepts. It helps build recall like nothing else. You can also create a small challenge game or a quiz with a prize in the end to make learning fun.
6. Make the home environment conducive to learning
The place of learning has a huge impact on a child’s retention and interest levels. To keep your house conducive to your child’s learning, do the following:
- Keep your house cross-ventilated if it’s not too cold
- Avoid making noise while working with utensils
- Schedule the washing machine operation during the lunch hour to keep disturbance minimal
- Avoid vacuuming during exams (schedule it for a time when your child is at the school)
- Avoid using strong room fragrances and stick to light, soothing floral or nutty notes
- Put up a mild sounding wind chime on the windows (it increases the flow of positive energy)
- Keep the lighting as natural as possible (stay away from yellow lighting in the house during exams)
7. Get external help – if required
All of us can try our best to help our children but can do only so much. When none of your endeavors to soothe exam nerves work, look out for professional help. You can reach out to freelancing counsellors, child helplines or even psychologists.
Break the taboo around seeking psychological guidance for your child and take the leap. A professional can often help in a structured and much more impactful way. Children are also (sometimes) inclined to follow advises of professionals much more seriously than of their own parents.
Try being an active participant in your child’s learning curve throughout the year and not just during exams. Recognize their learning needs early on and never let them miss a goal again.
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