Knowing that someone is always there for them (your ward) can work like magic. We all know and understand that the time for exams is not only a challenge for your teen / ward, but also for everyone connected to them, especially parents. We hope the below tips to you as a parent will help you prepare yourself and your teen / ward to face the exam and not just do well, but perform with flying colors. All the best and say hello to exams.
- Help them Manage their Time
Time management is the biggest problem faced by students during their class from 9th standard. With so many things to juggle during the day, from school, homework and exams to tuitions and extra-curricular activities, working without a structure ends up making their preparation chaotic and unplanned.
As a parent, you can lend a helping hand to build a useful schedule for their days and weeks to help them efficiently utilize their time.
I recently met a student Mehak (17), who was a humanities student and also pursued dance as a passionate hobby. She wanted to pursue a degree in Mass Communication after class 12th, yet her scores had started dropping sharply in class 12th as compared to 11th grade.
Her mother decided to step in and inquired about her entire schedule. She wrote down the number of hours she was spending on each activity (school, dance class, tuitions, self-study, etc.) and noticed that her tuitions were taking a toll on her and she was better with self-study. She reduced her tuitions to 3 days a week so that Mehak could get the support she required, yet at the same time make time for self-study.
Hence, it is important to realize the areas your child is facing issues with and help them manage them in a better manner.
- Being There Works like Magic
Being there with your child, not just physically but also emotionally, can have extremely positive effects on them. Students usually face an intense amount of anxiety and pressure during their exam preparation phase. Knowing that someone is always there for them can make a huge difference to their mental wellbeing.
As a parent, it is the time to minimize your outings; put a hold on your favourite TV shows and family vacations. It is a time to constantly support your child, be aware of their state of mind, and be available emotionally whenever they need you.
A few months back, I met a lady whose daughter Radhika (18) was appearing for the board exams this year. According to her, she was spending more and more time with her daughter and made it a point to discuss her progress regularly.
Yet, do remember not to overdo it. Learn to give appropriate space to the child whenever required.
- Use the Right Words
You must have heard a lot of people saying that you should never compare your child with others. This statement holds a lot of merit.
Every child is unique and you should celebrate their differences and uniqueness. There can be a designer, writer or even a dancer in your child. Even if your child is not able to score high grades in a particular subject, there could be a possibility of him/her being brilliant in something else. Every child has his/her own strengths and allowing them to build on them can help them be successful in the long run. Marks are not the only criterion of success in life and thus you should help them in identifying their strength areas (probably through an aptitude and career assessment) in a supportive environment with constant motivation.
There are statements that you should avoid, such as, “Your future depends on this exam”, and “If you want to do well in life, you must do well in these exams.” It is good to make them understand the importance of the exams, but it need not be done at the expense of their wellbeing. These statements could scare them and create a feeling of fear, which might hamper their performance.
You should simply use statements such as “perform your best”, “It is just an exam, your future would depend upon your hard work”
- Monitor their Progress & Help them Create Self-Help Aids
Weekly assessments can help in mapping your child’s progress and figuring out their weak areas. Motivate your child to take up regular mock-tests in a proper exam-like setting and regularly solve last year’s question papers. Make sure that they attempt the paper within that time limit only; no extra time should be allotted.
Remember that solving mock papers is an effective solution only if they use them to critically evaluate their performance and find out their weak areas. Once they have completed the test, ask them to write down their weak areas, pattern of mistakes and areas they are comfortable with. This will help them in making better revision plans and improve their performance over time.
Students also get confused in certain types of areas and lose marks, such as which formula to apply when? Who was the last Mughal Emperor? What is Newton’s Law of Inertia? To help them with this, you can advise them to create self-help aids such as small sheets or flash cards with mathematical formulas, accounts formulas, physics laws, historical events, etc.
You can sit with them and take an oral test for such areas. Ask them to write it down again (without any help) and test them.
- Motivate Them with Rewards
Your child will perform better if you will set targets for their entire preparation journey and reward each target with their favourite items.
Rewards can be set for both the short-term and long-term. Short-term goals (completion of specific chapters, improvement in performance on mocks, etc.) and longer-term goals (scores on unit tests, sessionals, pre-boards, etc.) together can help your child stay motivated along the entire preparation journey towards the board exams.
Avoid giving punishments, however, as they generate a feeling of negativity and fear in teens.
- Discuss their Exam Strategy
How to write answers, how to make answers presentable, which questions to attempt first, how to divide time between various sections, etc. are a few areas where your child might need help. 6 out of 10 students don’t pay attention to their strategy and lose out on marks.
Sit with them and discuss these areas.
For example, Raghuveer (16) was a class Xth student with brilliant aptitude. He was a sincere student and spent 3-4 hours daily preparing for exams. However, he was never able to complete his Mathematics paper.
His mother analyzed his answers and realized that he has a habit of solving the paper in sequence. The first 10 questions carried 1 mark each and the last section of the paper had questions carrying 6 marks. He was generally slow at the beginning of the paper, and hence was spending more time on the 1-mark section.
She suggested him to start with the last section first by which he could invest more time on the section carrying more weightage. Now, even if he missed out on some questions, then he would lose out on fewer marks than earlier.
- Remove Distractions
Music, Chit Chats with Friends, Morning Walk, Texts – Every student has a particular distraction; all you need to do is find out which one is interfering with your child’s studies and tackle it in the right manner.
For example, Shankar (17) had a habit of listening to music while studying. He was not able to concentrate properly and this was affecting his retention as well. His mother replaced the music with instrumental tones to help him learn better.
You can, thus, deal with the problem by mitigating the situation instead of completely removing something your child likes.
Let’s look at another example.
Mr. Khanna was a father of a 16-year-old daughter who wrote her class 10 boards last year. She had a habit of visiting her best friend every day and was losing out on precious time due to this. She was also addicted to several TV series. He advised his daughter to visit her friend on alternate days and asked them to watch the series together when they met. This way, he helped her save the time she was wasting earlier.
- Listen to Them after Exams
The time right after an exam is very crucial. This is a period where your child needs someone to share their feelings, fears and anxieties about the paper and the impending result. Listen to their side of the story and give them their sweet time to discuss the paper without any judgments.
Give more compliments and 2 remarks. This will help the kids recgonised, feel good and think about the remarks.
- Monitor and Identify any Warning Signs
No matter how well prepared a student is, they tend to feel anxious during exams and are worried about their results. It is really important to ensure their mental well-being by checking with them at regular intervals. While being nervous/anxious to some extent is normal, but if the child is using negative statements such as “Ican’t do it”, “I am a failure”, I won’t be able to do anything”, then it could be cause for alarm.
There are some other signs in extreme cases, such as loss of appetite, irregular sleeping pattern, irritated mood, anger issues, loss of patience, etc. that could indicate that the child is not keeping well, or is taking undue stress. Keep a check! If you observe any odd behaviour or changes, it is the time for you to intervene. Talk to them about it and get some support.
Additional Tips and Solutions
- Take care of yourself as a parent first. Yes, if there is turbulence in a flight, the parent will put their mask first & then help the Child to put the mask. Likewise, you need to take care of yourself first
- Make sure your Teen eat well balanced food
- Monitor your Teen so that he/she gets enough sleep
- Help them to study with proper planning
- Encourage any kind of physical activity everyday
- Watch signs of stress like
- Worry a lot
- Feel tense
- Physical pains
- Stomach pains
- Seem hopeless about the exams and future
- Have someone talk to your Teen about their emotions
If your child’s anxiety or low mood is severe, persists & interferes with their everyday life
It is a good idea to get some help. Seek a General Practitioner or a Counselor
Causes & effects of exam anxiety:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of repeating past poor test performance
- Exam anxiety Symptoms:
Physical: Sweating, shaking, shortness of breath
Emotional: Anger, fear, disappointment
Behavioral & Cognitive: Negative thinking, Comparing
Tips for helping your Teen with Exam Anxiety
- Help your Teen prepare a structure and a ritual
- Teach your Teen effective study techniques
It’s natural to share with your Teens anxieties in exam but how can you be useful?
Many parents may feel a sense of powerlessness in not being able to alleviate the suffering of their child
It might be that you are trying to manage your own stress by easing your Teen worries
Find a balance
Your job as a parent is to help your Teen achieve the optimal balance between being too relaxed & being paralyzed by anxiety
Try to listen, absorb & contain the distress of your Teen through affirmation & reassurance. Make sure they know that their worth to you & others is separate from their achievements
It also helps parents to put things in perspective. Exams are important but your child’s whole life does not depend on them, although it may feel like that at the time
Think back to your own youth & remember that when the worst happened, it usually wasn’t as bad as you expected. It’s what you did next that made the difference
Engaging with challenging experiences such as finals & important exams is essential for young people to develop internal skills & resources & will provide them with the confidence & emotional resilience needed to cope with the future challenges of work & adult life
Seeing exam stress as a necessary part of the learning process should help your own peace of mind too
Every child is different, and no one knows your child better than you do. It is great to be involved in helping your child with his/her preparations, but you should know where to draw a line. If your child feels you are interfering in their life at any point, talk to them openly to understand their requirements and give space whenever required.
Be with them and grow with them.
Counsellor & Hypnotherapist