Bust Exam Stress

The exams are around the corner and there's a cloud of stress hanging in the air at home. Here are some effective strategies that will help you and your child stay on top.

BY DR SHELJA SEN Updated: Oct 10, 2018 18:23:02 IST
Bust Exam Stress

IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR again: the exams are around the corner and there's a cloud of stress hanging in the air at home. Here are some effective strategies that will help you and your child stay on top.

Develop smart learning methods.

Encourage creative learning. We often equate hard work with the number of hours a child puts in. But it's really the quality of learning that makes the difference. Active learning methods such as reading aloud, helping others learn, brainstorming, recording and listening (for auditory learners), highlighting, mind-mapping, making notes and diagrams (for visual learners) and movement, walking around, dribbling the ball (for kinaesthetic learners) or maybe a mix of all these can help the brain absorb the information efficiently.

Let them take a break. Each child is wired differently-some need breaks every hour, while others can stay focused for hours. A break will help energize the overloaded brain. A high-protein or unprocessed carb snack, a jog in the park or listening to music refreshes the brain, preparing it for further learning and retention. Once in a while, take long breaks-a meal at a restaurant or a good film is okay. These will keep your child feeling upbeat and prepare her for the long haul.

Change TICs to TOCs. Task-interfering cognitions (TICs)-"This is boring,' 'I don't want to do it now,' 'I will do it later'-can lead to demotivation and chronic procrastination. So help your kid to embrace TOCs (task-orienting cognitions)-'I am going to have fun doing these maths problems,' 'I am going to stay focused and get this done,' to keep the energy and motivation alive.

Remove distractions. Sit down with her and identify them. It could be the TV, mobile phones, social media, music, gaming consoles. Your child will try and convince you that multitasking makes her focus better. But research shows that this is a myth, listen calmly but take a clear stand.

Help your kids visualize. Before the exams, help your child visualize the exam morning-every detail from the travel to the exam centre, walking in, meeting friends, sitting down and going through the question paper. Let her see herself answering the questions with complete confidence and alertness. Research has shown that visualizing prepares the brain in advance for affirmative action.

Ensure enough sleep. It helps the overwrought brain recover, improving concentration and focus. A high-protein breakfast wakes the brain up like nothing else can.


Work on yourself so you don't lose your nerve.

Avoid nagging. If you feel your child is not putting in enough effort, sit down and have a chat with her. Listen, empathize with her struggles and together, work out a plan that will help her stay on track. Remember, kids will do well if they are given the support they need.

Create an easy, comfortable atmosphere at home. Exams do not mean gloom and drudgery. Make space for fun, laughter, playfulness, good food and music. The happier the child, the more effectively she will be able to learn.

Keep the bigger picture in mind. Stay calm and emphasize sustained effort, perseverance and determination. Focus on building character, not grades. In the long run, that is all that really matters. 


Dr Shelja Sen is a Delhi-based clinical psychologist and family therapist and the author of All You Need Is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting.


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