In India, board results (12th) may well determine life choices for children. In addition, they may also be preparing for entrance exams. No other examinations, before or after have such a high impact. Since this is also common knowledge, it is a time of great stress for students and their families.
The 2-3 years leading to the board exams are a race to a finish line; real learning takes a back seat as compared to the ability to get marks. This is not to imply there is no learning; just that any learning outside the syllabus will not be a priority for most children.
Parents find themselves in the middle, often with no idea of how to help. Some scold, others cajole. Some panic, others do not get involved. Here are 5 tips on how you can help.
Reward / recognize effort, not result
A result is a consequence of effort, it is more important to recognize effort is more important than result. This is possibly the most important thing for a parent to do, and usually we all recognize results more than the effort.
Recognizing a result can have two harmful effects. The first is complacence. If the student feels they are great at something, they stop trying. The second is reduction in risk-taking. If a student is recognized for results, they tend to blame external factors when there is poor performance and tend not to put themselves in situations where they may not know an answer.
On the other hand, recognizing effort helps a student try harder. If your child does well with less effort, mention that a bit more effort could have even better results. If your child has not done very well despite putting in a lot of effort, mention that their effort will get better results in future. This will ensure they keep trying.
One thing to check is that they are studying properly. Do check the article on 7 tips to study better, to make sure that the effort is being put correctly.
Think of it as getting ready to run a marathon. To prepare for a marathon, there are regular exercises to do. If you take too many days off, and start exercising a few days before the event, you are unlikely to complete it.
In the same way, students will study harder closer to the exam. But if they wait to study and only do it when exams are eminent, results will not be adequate.
Students should have a fixed pattern of study. This may vary from day to day depending on other activities, but typically there must be a study schedule every day, and a minimum schedule for a week. Try and fix the specific hours as well. For example an hour before and after dinner. Once that is done, it becomes a habit.
Ensure proper nutrition, sleep and exercise
It is important to make sure your child is physically able to cope with the work load.
As the amount of work increases, students tend to focus on studying at the expense of everything else. Make sure they eat regularly, and ensure at least 3 healthy meals each day. Children tend to get into alternate rhythms and increasing snacking – usually of junk food. Snacking is not a problem if accompanied by 3 proper meals.
Sleep in the other challenge. Students at that age need at least hours of sleep every day to remain mentally alert. Near the exams that is unlikely to happen. But the rest of the time, work with your child to agree on when and for how long they will sleep.
Exercise is also required to keep energy levels up. Many children tend to withdraw from all forms of exercise during most of the last 2-3 years. At least 45 minutes of some form of exercise every day is important to ensure that your child stays healthy and alert.
Help them relax
Stress plays an important role as well. There will be times when intake levels drop despite the number of hours being put in. This is likely to be less if the previous point is adhered to, but will still happen.
The first and most important step is to be relaxed yourself. Children already have the burden of expectations. They do not need the impact of your stress as well.
Speak to your child regularly. Catch up on the day, ask about progress, chat about friends, other things of common interest. If they seem to be stressed, help them calm down. Ask them if they would like a special meal, talk about the lovely holiday after the exams, get their mind off studies. It’s a good idea to have a meal together.
Let them know they can talk to you, and when they do, do not judge, but try and help. Scolding them will not help. There will be days when nothing is going right, when self confidence will be at the lowest point. That is also the time when your child needs to relax.
Get help as needed
Remove obstacles where possible. Help with getting stationery, photocopies, pickup and drop from tuitions or school if needed.
Let them off their home duties (if there are any).
You may need to help them find a tutor, or find materials from the web or subscribe to a site with worksheets they need.
Stay sensitive to their needs. This period will be hard on you, but its much harder on your child.
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