Thursday, February 22, 2024

Nurturing young minds through parental guidance during exams

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The pressure and stress that students experience during exams can be overwhelming, often leading to anxiety and emotional turmoil. A parent’s role extends beyond just providing academic guidance. While the role of parents as educators is crucial, their role as caregivers and emotional anchors cannot be underestimated. By adopting a supportive and empathetic approach, parents can effectively play the role of a psychologist for their stressed-out child during exam periods.

Experiencing stress before exams is a natural response, but when it becomes overwhelming, it can hinder a student’s performance and well-being. Symptoms of excessive stress may include irritability, sleep disturbances, lack of concentration, and even physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. Parents need to recognize that stress, to some extent, is normal, but they should also be vigilant about signs of distress that indicate a deeper issue.

Dispensing Psychological Support

Create a supportive environment: Parents should foster an atmosphere where open communication is encouraged. Create a safe space for the child to share their concerns, fears, and worries without the fear of judgment.

Active listening & expressing empathy: Pay attention to the child’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Sometimes, students may not explicitly express their stress, but their body language and demeanor can provide valuable insights into their emotional state. Pay close attention to the child’s words, tone, and body language. Active listening helps understanding their emotions better and allows them to feel heard and validated. Show empathy by acknowledging your child’s feelings and validating their experiences. Avoid dismissing their concerns and instead reassure them that their emotions are normal.

Encourage healthy study habits: Help the child establish a balanced study routine. Focus on the child’s efforts rather than just the results. Acknowledge their hard work, dedication, and progress throughout the preparation period.

Teach stress management techniques: Share simple stress-relief techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, visualization or meditation to help children manage their anxiety levels effectively. These tools can help the child manage anxiety and regain focus.

Normalize imperfection: Emphasize that nobody is perfect, and setbacks are part of life. Help them understand that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. Help them come to terms with their individuality rather than endlessly competing for excellence. Remember, there is a huge difference between self- actualization and meeting standards set by others. The life-value of each is unique.

Persistent behavioral changes: If your child’s stress symptoms persist beyond the exam period and begin to affect their daily life, it’s time to seek professional help.

Physical symptoms: Be alert to physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches, stomachaches, or changes in eating habits, as these can be indicators of heightened stress.

Drastic behavioral changes: Sudden shifts in behavior, such as social withdrawal, sudden aggression, or extreme changes in sleep patterns, can indicate underlying psychological issues. Keep an eye out for significant and persistent changes in your child’s behavior, such as sudden withdrawal from activities, loss of interest, or increased irritability.

Extreme Emotional Reactions: If your child exhibits extreme emotional reactions such as frequent crying, anger outbursts, or signs of hopelessness, it might be a sign that they need professional support.

Decline in academic Performance: A sudden and noticeable decline in academic performance, despite consistent effort, could be indicative of underlying emotional struggles.

Isolation: If your child starts isolating themselves from friends and family, it may suggest that they are struggling to cope and might require additional assistance.
Loss of interest: A sudden loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed could be a sign of emotional turmoil.

Severe anxiety or depression: If your child displays symptoms of severe anxiety or depression, such as persistent sadness, hopelessness, or thoughts of self-harm, it’s critical to seek immediate professional help.

Taking the Next Step

Consult a professional: If you notice any of the aforementioned signs persisting, consider seeking help from a qualified mental health professional. A psychologist or counselor can provide specialized guidance and interventions tailored to your child’s needs.

Normalize Seeking Help: Create an environment where seeking professional help is normalized. Explain to your child that just as they visit a doctor for physical ailments, seeking help for mental well-being is equally important.

Collaborate with School: Reach out to your child’s school counselor or teachers to discuss their academic and emotional challenges. Schools often have resources and support systems in place to assist students during stressful times.

Parents have a pivotal role in nurturing their child’s mental and emotional well-being during the challenging period of exams. A parent’s role as a psychological support system for a stressed-out child during exams is crucial. By fostering open communication, empathy, and understanding, parents can create an environment that promotes emotional well-being. Facilitating conducive environment, dispelling unrealistic expectations, and recognizing when to involve professionals, helps parents to serve as an invaluable source of psychological support and help manifest an easy transformation for their children. While parents’ efforts can go a long way in alleviating stress, itss equally important to recognize when professional help is needed.

(The author, Meenal Luther Nhür, is the Founder Director of Mettle Rings.)

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