Should you push your child or not? Your role as a parent
The approach of exam season is an inevitable cause of increased pressure and tensions for students. Besides the academic workloads, additional stressors could stem from the worry of their parents, the expectations of the teachers, the comparison and competition with their peers, or the nagging from their tutors! While the typical focus of attention is on the responsibility of the students to perform, an equally important responsibility needs to be shared by the parents.
Students’ stress levels during exams are not restricted to study skills, but a major contributing factor involves the role of their parents. Exam period brings along varying levels of stress and anxiety for both children and parents. For the children the stress is more direct and obvious, whereas for parents, it’s often transferred.
Despite of their own anxieties and worries regarding their child’s performance in their exams, it is important for the parents to be able to serve as an encouraging support system for the children during these times. Some of the following tips can be kept in mind by the parents to help their children during exam season:
1. Have realistic expectations. As a parent, we all desire the best for our children. While we may have expectations from our child to accomplish our own unfulfilled dreams, such expectations are likely to add to unrealistic pressures from the child. Moreover, each student must be allowed to work towards his or her own dream. Not only will this ensure their happiness but will also help in keeping them motivated to achieve their own goals and aspirations. Carrying the burden of their parents’ dreams can be a very heavy weight on their shoulders.
2. Focus on your child’s efforts, not just the results. Performance in the exams could be dependent on multiple factors which may not be in your or your child’s control. However, it is important for you as a parent to direct your attention to your child’s efforts. Your child should know that my parents’ happiness is dictated by my best efforts, and not solely by my marks in the exams.
3. Motivate your child. In encouraging your child to work hard, it is important to remember not to pressurize the child. As it is, there is sufficient pressure coming from the peers, schools and teachers. As parents, it is your role to help the children assume responsibility for their own performance, and they should recognize you as a support system. However, it is important to differentiate between motivating and pressurizing your child, so remember to maintain a balance!
4. Be a support system. During exams, the children should be able to turn towards the parents as a source of support. As parents, help your child by providing a positive environment for the child. Help the child in maintaining a regular routine and healthy lifestyle. Be there for your children to hear them out and provide a listening ear. Do not discourage all extra-curricular activities during exams, as each child needs to take regular breaks from studies. Moreover, indulging in hobbies and other physical activities has been found to be beneficial not just in rejuvenating the child’s energy levels, and ensures a better attentions and concentration.
5. Don’t interrogate. While you may want to stay involved in your child’s preparations for the exams, do not make the child feel victimized by your interrogations. Instead, help the child in making a schedule if he/she is unable to do so, but encourage their sense of responsibility and commitment at the same time. Rather than parents having to question and check on the child’s progress, it is better to encourage the children to themselves to assess themselves through self-tests ad revisions, and to review their own progress objectively.
6. Talk to other parents. Relying on other parents as a support system can be very beneficial in dealing with parental anxieties and tensions. However, it is important to remember that you do not end up comparing notes with their children, and remember to focus on your own child individually. Telling your child about comparisons with their peers is not a good idea, as it not only gives them additional pressures, but also because each child is different. Talking to other parents can help you share your worries and apprehensions, and be able to vent your emotions realizing that you are not alone.
7. Exams are a not the end of life. As a parent, it is important both for you to remember, and also help your child to understand that exams are just one part of a lifetime. They are not the only deciding factors of the child’s future, but are simply a stepping stone. So do not make exams sound like a bigger deal than they actually are, and remember to convey this to your child as well.
8. Be calm! Remember, as much as you might attempt to camouflage your own anxieties and worries, it is inevitable that your child will be able to see through it. While worrying about your child’s future is normal, it is more important for you to be able to handle your stress effectively, in order to prevent any adverse impact on the child’s preparation and performance.
Lastly, it is important to remember that, often parents are able to recognize the signs of their child experiencing difficulties with his or her studies. But what comes next is the more important point, as it is common for the parental concerns and efforts to be perceived as a hindrance or interference from the child’s point of view. Therefore, avoid being punitive or nagging, and instead help the child identify the obstacles and develop better and smarter mechanisms to deal with the pressure and expectations of his or her academics, without compromising on your relationship with the child.