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How to Manage Children During Exams
Dr.Shilpa Gupta

Exams (3 hours paper) are conducted only twice or thrice in a year. But if we get stressed by the exams then it’s an ongoing phenomenon for a minimum of six to eight years of our life. What one should understand is if we have to learn cooking, swimming or driving, we cannot learn it in a day. The same way we can’t learn how to work on stress created by exams in a day.

We know that every game has a different set of rules, hockey rules cannot be applied to the game of table tennis. Similarly exam performance is a separate game and exam stress is a separate game. We as parents mix the two, which only creates confusion and more stress.

 

One biggest difference between the two games is that in the game of exam performance we focus more on challenges and strengths of child and the role of a parent is like a coach. So, the key player is the child. Here scoring is a natural outcome whereas in the game of exam stress there are many active players -Parents, school, friends & the child himself.

Let’s understand both the games. This will help each one of us to create our success strategy

Game of Exam Performance (EP)

Every game says- when you do not get a breakthrough – go to basics.

So, divide performance into 6steps. The game has 4 steps before exams and 2 steps after exams.

Steps before exams -

Step 1. – Know the child’s studying style

Every child is different and so is there studying style.

Is the child visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner – The child learns better if he or she is reading on their own, becomes a Visual learner. If the child understands and learns better if they listen in class, chapter is read by a parent or doing group studies, then the child is an Auditory learner. If the child grasps better when they are moving some body parts like shaking legs, while walking or when explained through practical experiments, then the child is a kinesthetic learner.

The challenge comes when we are not aware of the studying style. For example - An auditory child will sit for hours in front of book & not grasp a word because he/she needs someone to read for them. We should be aware that all 3 learning styles are normal.

Step 2 – Know your Child’s grasping style.

Some children study better when they come back from playing, some like to study during morning hours while some learn best after dinner. Some children need a 20 min break after every 20 minutes of learning time.

Step-3 Know your Child’s Preparation Style

To perform in exams some children need only 1 revision and some children need 4 revisions. If you are not conscious of the preparation style then as parents we may not be able to support our child in creating the right time table or plan for exams timely

Step 4 – Know your Child’s scoring Style

It’s not always about hard work sometimes we need smart work too. Be aware of the marks distribution of chapters and how papers are evaluated. It supports learning and answering rightly as per the board requirement. If the child writes slowly teach how to divide time for each section and how much to write for 1 mark question and a 5 mark question

Steps after exams have 2 steps: -

Step 5- Learn to Evaluate

Marks are an outcome of many factors like paper was easy or tough, lengthy and how confident the child feels before exams. If the child has scored less marks then before scolding the child or taking promises for working hard next time--Ask yourself – where did my child loose marks? Check the paper separately in child’s absence while taking care of 3 things –

·         Concepts- Is my child losing marks because his/her understanding in subject is weak?

·         Able to attempt the question paper completely

·         What kind of careless mistakes is my child doing- like copying numbers wrongly, missing to write units, definitions are not having important key words, not reading question properly, and answering only half part of the question.

Note: Only when we have the clarity we can guide our child where to improve. Every problem doesn’t have same solution. The child whose concepts are not clear needs lots of support, love, hard work and practice. Where as a child who cannot complete paper may need time management and sample paper practice.

Step 6 – Learn the Lesson for the Next Time

Those who miss this step get trapped inside the belief that we will make the child work harder next time. Exams come every 4 to 6 months. So, whatever are the shortcomings from previous exam should be taken care for the next exam. It’s easy to score and work hard provided you know your child’s EP. When the child is young it is the parent’s job to coach the child and to help them understand their studying style. Make your child aware of their strengths and enjoy watching them grow every day.

Game of Managing Exam Stress ( ES)

What are Exams?

Exams are a structure to check one’s long term and short-term memory

It includes skills of time management. Speed and understanding are tested during the exams.

Also learns the skills of enjoying success and moving on, accepting failures and letting go, working hard, planning and execution

Getting present to one’s strengths and challenges in each of the above skills.

Marks is just an outcome of the exams and of all the skills that one has learnt over time

Think about it: We as parents get nearly 12 long years to support our children in accomplishing the above skills so that our children can become independent and responsible with an attitude of not giving up.

The process of teaching skills comes very naturally to many parents. Stress occurs when we as parents are not able to identify or accept our child’s limitations and studying style.

Stress increases when focus is on marks and expectations. Stress is a negative emotion and a negative emotion does not create a positive result. We and the child both become tensed, irritable, upset, angry, think more about the future, there is fear of failure or bad performance and it increases more when the child cannot recollect from their long-term memory and also becomes forgetful, lose their confidence and further child loses interest in studies… It’s a viscous cycle

If I ask you to think of someone saying the word Exams Aagaye!? How are their expressions? A serious face with tension and a heavy voice.Think about it. How do you say “Exams Aagaye” to your child? Have you ever seen anyone smiling and saying WOW EXAMS AAGAYE!!

As mentioned earlier that this game of Exam Stress has many players and contributors like parents, school, friends etc, thus some stress is naturally created. Little stress that is experienced by the child is good enough to motivate them to perform better in their exams. It is our responsibility to be conscious about the fact that we are not adding to the stress experienced by the child.

Factors that help in reducing Exam Stress are:       

1.      Preparation and planning- Preparation has been explained in the Exam Preparation section and planning is where we will focus now. Create timetables. Start them one and a half months before exams and review. Keep reviewing them weekly if the course is lagging behind. Every child is different so timetables will be different based on potential, grasping and sincerity of the child. They need to be made on hourly bases when exams are very near. Mostly children make very unrealistic timetables, so as a parent focus on the grasping power and break times when creating time tables.

2.      First focus on Self- What are my beliefs and fears around exams and marks?

Sharing some examples-

·         ‘It’s insulting and shameful to share my child’s marks among relatives and friends’

·         “One needs to be a winner else one will lose in life”

·         Insecure future, “Kya Hogaaagejaakar?”

·         “I don’t want my child to struggle in life the way I have struggled”,

·         Exams are tough so I have to work hard with my child,

·         I had exam phobia and so I panic during my child’s exams too.

Each one of us needs to think now what makes me serious during exams? What is my fear? As a parent I believe one needs to teach our child how to win rather than how to carry the burden of our fears.

As parents: What can be done?  

·         One should work on our anxiety

·         Be conscious of our facial expressions as they do impact the child. Many parents say – We don’t say a word to our child and my question to them is – Do you smile when you talk to your child during exams. The Answer is - NO. Child’s performance only reduces when parents are anxious. The child will pick up your anxiety by his/her sixth sense. Engage oneself in some activity that supports in relaxing the mind

3.      Control the silent players- Gadgets, facebook, whats app, games need to be restricted. Be realistic, firm and smart with the child. The stricter we are, the child will waste more time in pleading, negotiating with us or throwing tantrums. . If the child is distracted or loosing interest in studies work on removing distractions first. Logical reasoning from child’s world, time tables, motivation and focus on goals usually helps the child to follow the instructions.

4.      Understand the potential of your child and bring it to reality- I have observed many parents keep telling me that my child has great potential but he / she is not scoring well. Understand what is the weak link and where do I need to support my child Peers and school create enough pressure. Many parents tell me that our child is not studying and that is why we are stressed. My answer to them is that start to focus on EP.

5.      Avoid comparison- Avoid comparing your child with classmates or children of friends and relatives. The most common myth is that “we say this to motivate our child”. Comparison makes a child feel less or small. With time the child starts believing that he/she is not good enough, loses confidence, becomes jealous, starts lying etc. Both child and parent lose focus on strengths and planning. Unknowingly, the child or the parent are playing the game of proving one’s self which is a very unfulfilling and a tough game.

6.      Stay calm- Stay cool and be encouraging. If the child becomes tensed then their performance will be impacted. Remember we are only a support and not the performer.

7.      Key to win- Focus on strengths and work on challenges. Exam stress is created when focus is more on marks than on the planning and following the time table. What many parents fail to understand is that if we focus on performance then scores will follow automatically.

8.      Discuss failures and avoid sarcasm - The earlier you begin the better acceptance comes from the child

9.      Enjoy the journey- Remember preparation for exams is only a safe and a small platform to practice the life challenges

 

Happy Parenting

Dr Shilpa Gupta

 

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