How many of us remember our 10th and 12th board exam marks? Do they really matter now? Do we know how successful those rankers are, who ceremoniously gave interviews year after year, purporting to become world class doctors to serve the needy?
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If the parents of all kids, who are about to take the supposedly life-deciding board exams, pause for a second to ponder these questions, we can not only move away from rote learning towards nurturing a knowledge-driven society, but also perhaps ensure a happier, more holistic development of these young minds.
Year after year, we focus on the number of ‘centums’ scored, even in subjects like Social Science and English, taking these as a measure of the standards and knowledge outcome of our students. This directly puts pressure on the students, who are put through the grind as the schools themselves compete with each other to earn the distinction of producing maximum centum scorers.
The heat is already on as the countdown to board exams has begun, and it is the right time to emphasise the need to be aware and take positive steps to effectively combat stress among students.
It is not without reason that we say this. The warning signs are already here.
Over 600 students have already reached out to the state school education department for counseling or guidance to deal with exam-related stress, in just one week since the launch of their helpline. The initiative was launched by the State School education department jointly with The Lede, an online journalism platform, and uses social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.
“While we have every resource available to excel in exams, we do not have any mechanism in place to deal with stress, and that mooted this initiative” says Raveena Joseph, Special Correspondent, The Lede. On the first day, when the helpline was launched, over 200 Whatsapp messages came pouring in, stressing the critical need for counseling these young minds.
A common trend spotted in the 600+ messages received so far is the fear of exams and the inability to express or articulate the issues they face.
“Most questions, therefore, were of generic nature and it was a mix of 10th , 11th and 12th students appearing for the state board examinations who reached out in large numbers” says Ms. Joseph. They asked about the right kind of food to have, whether non vegetarian food can be eaten, and the duration of breaks that a student should take.
Helping our kids
In a cocooned life, with both parents working and pressed for time, kids today do not have a mentor to look up to or approach. One pertinent question that must always be examined is whether we have an open environment at home for the kids to ask and share their opinions. Mental wellbeing is as important as physical health and much more so than an academic score card.
“Very few children approach their parents with a problem. It is the parents’ responsibility to constantly but gently question their children about what they are feeling or how they are feeling,” says Dr. Mini Rao, renowned psychologist who has been creating awareness around the issue and stressing the need to focus on mental health.
She further adds that parents should be approachable, supportive, motivating and positive towards their children, especially during exam time. The children sometimes fear scolding from their parents and try to hide their fears and insecurities. There should be open communication and it is up to the parents to make their child comfortable enough to seek help from them.
The warning signs
Prevention is better than cure, and that holds good for any situation. If parents spend considerable time with the kids through the year, they can definitely notice even a slight behavioural change.
Dr Rao says “When children start acting irritable or moody, withdrawing from activities that they usually enjoyed, don’t show interest in the food they once enjoyed, constantly worry about the exams, complain more than usual about school, cling to a parent or teacher, sleep too much or too little, cry for no reason, that is the warning bell for help.”
How parents can help
First and foremost, parents should be aware of the individuality of each child and realistic with their expectations. Accepting and appreciating the uniqueness and the strength of the child will help her excel. Each child has a different learning pattern and it is important to be aware of this.
Dr Rao advises parents to be open to exam stress and reassure their children that it is not the end of the world: “Tell them to work hard and give it their best. Tell them that to be scared of exams is normal and that it is acceptable. Tell them to focus on their strengths and things will be okay.”
|Teach your children to study smart rather than hard. Create a study plan||Do not compare, not even with their own siblings|
|Create a conducive study environment||Do not discontinue extra curricular activities. Sport or music is a good relaxation|
|Remind them to take breaks and not study continuously||Do not push them too hard, teach them to work on their strengths|
One of the most important requirements for well-being, which is often overlooked during examinations, is nutrition and healthy eating. When we are stressed, we either overeat or do not eat at all. Both have an adverse effect.
Dr Divya Purushotam, Nutritionist and Founder, Sano Holistic Nutrition Clinic, says experimenting with different foods at this time has to be avoided as we may not know the body’s reaction to it.
“Home food and sticking to regular food that you are comfortable with is important. Timely food is important as hunger can reduce your concentration and your will to study. Water is essential for every cell to function. Ensure that you are well-hydrated throughout the day,” advises Divya.
|MUST HAVE||MUST AVOID|
|Early morning detox drink – A glass of lime water with a pinch of organic salt to cleanse your system for a fresh start in the morning||High sugar and processed foods – These food items can reduce the functioning of every cell in the body thereby reducing your overall productivity.|
|Beetroot Juice – Beetroot Juice with the pulp can be consumed with breakfast or as a mid-morning snack. This will help to increase oxygen supply to all your cells thereby increasing your productivity.||Carbonated drinks – Carbonated drink only add more stress to your system making it more difficult for your body to function.|
|Walnuts – Everybody needs a good night’s sleep to relax and recover from the day’s activities. The melatonin in the walnuts will help to activate other neurotransmitters responsible for sleep. Walnuts can be consumed at night/bedtime.||High Fat Sweets – Fatty sweets take a long time to digest and can tend to make you too full, making it uncomfortable for you and your body.|
Help is just a call away!
It is important for all students to keep in mind that while you should put in all efforts and give it your best, an exam, however crucial it may be, does not make or break life. With opportunities galore, your skills and strength can definitely take you places. Exam tension or stress is only a temporary phase of life, and you are not alone in facing it.
Speak to your parents, friends, teacher, mentor or whoever you are comfortable with to help you wade through the difficulties. Seek professional help if need be.
There are 10 mobile counselors across 32 districts who have been deployed as part of the exam stress helpline initiative referred to earlier; look out for them or send a Whatsapp message to +91 7373002426.
Alternatively, you may just dial any of the helpline numbers given below for counselling. Help is close at hand, you just need to reach out.
|1098 – Childline
1091 – Women’s helpline
14417 – Helpline for students
044 24640050/60 – Sneha
1 800 118 004 – Helpline by CBSE
104 – State health helpline
Parents must also remember that exam tension or stress is temporary. Once these are over, the children will go back to being their normal stress-free selves. All it requires is a little intervention, support and just being there to reinforce “All is well!”