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How to Help Your Child Beat Stress during Exam Season

Exam season is looming. Your child is anxious. You’re anxious. And yet, whatever you do, you just can’t seem to restore a sense of calm. As a parent, it’s important that you help your child find an equilibrium between studying hard and not feeling too burdened during exam time. Calming your child’s nerves may be easier said than done, but with these steps, you can take heart that you’re on the right path. Look out for signs of stress Left unchecked, stress can snowball into more deep-seated issues. This is why it is imperative that its signs are identified and addressed early. Some common signs of stress include poor sleep, loss or change in appetite, low moods, teary episodes, a drop in self-esteem, pugnacious behaviour, headaches, panic attacks, tummy troubles and swollen skin. More serious signs—such as eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and self-harm—although rare, are also worth watching for. If you do notice any signs, draw your child in for a sensitive discussion about what’s wrong and why they are feeling so anxious. Identifying the root cause of stress can help you ascertain what step to take next. If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, consider child counselling and consult a child psychologist to discuss a path forward for your child. Keep your cool Exam time can conjure up a whole lot of stress for your little one, so it’s important that you stay calm and lead by example. Kids can absorb nervous energy, so being a positive force is half your battle won. Eliminate the expectations Forcing your child to be a little Einstein can result in unnecessary pressure and, in turn, increased anxiety. Lose the baggage around ranks, scores and percentiles and be realistic with your expectations. Sometimes, projected grades may be misleading; and it doesn’t mean your child will necessarily achieve them. By setting targets within reach, an overachievement becomes a reason to celebrate! Put life in perspective Kids often feel like school and grades are the be all and end all of life. Sit your child down and explain to them the significance of good scores, while also discussing the best and worst possible outcomes. If your child is struggling with academics, or has few creative outlets, it may be a good idea to consider a change of school, or extra help after school. It’s your job to instil confidence in your child about a fulfilling and promising future—one unbiased by scores and ranks. Establish a conducive study environment A thoughtfully curated study environment can serve as a calming cocoon for your child in the dead of exam season. Create a neat and tranquil study nook with a table, chair and task lamp. Sunlight can augment cognitive skills, so it’s best that you place your nook by a bright and breezy window. Encourage your child to use study aids Everything doesn’t work for everyone, so it’s important that you help your child discover tools and aids that work for them. Using visual aids, poeticising notes, translating words to images, revising aloud, or anything else, may work well for your child. Cycle through various auditory, visual and kinaesthetic tools to determine a style that fits your child best. Envelop your child in love and care Exam anxiety can take a toll on your child’s health and research suggests that nearly 50% of children skip meals due to exam stress. Take the lead in ensuring that your child is taking regular breaks every 60-90 minutes, and eating nutritious meals at frequent intervals. A healthy diet can stimulate the brain and give your child much-needed energy in the wake of a draining study session. Giving your child an uplifting environment at home can be a golden step to making exam season like any other. By remaining calm and composed, your child will follow suit. And there’s really no better exam stress remedy than that.

Dr. Nithya Narasimha Murthy

Consultant -Psychiatrist

Rainbow Children's Hospital, Banjara Hills