Testing Times: Ahead of the upcoming Boards, how parents can help kids expel exam fear

(Published on DailyO)

The mood is keyed up for Boards. Although I don’t have a Board candidate at home burning the midnight oil, as a tutor, with every class that I spend with my 12th grader, I am becoming increasingly aware of what those of his ilk are going through in this week before the exams — I am also receiving news about children overwhelmed by the situation fleeing their homes, and l become jittery myself.

My empathy for these young students is giving me a vicarious experience of their world. Fear, anxiety, self-doubt and social expectations are arching over their hours of hard work and disrupting their well-being. It is the usual story. One which we bear testimony to year after year. Millions of students and parents pass through this phase. As if it is par for the course, part of life to struggle and suffer when exams are close.

It is not easy to be a student in these times — neither to be a parent. Adolescent behavior and parental control are usually on a collision course and the result can often be disastrous. So what can be done to defuse it? It is hard, say parents. It is horrendous, say students. But somewhere, there has to be a resolution to this recurring ordeal. We need to take control of this terror that seizes children and the apprehension that makes parents become monstrously overbearing in the eyes of their wards.


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This is what I said to my pupil yesterday when he said that he was afraid.

“Don’t give power to your fear. Give power to your hard work.”

As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to bring assurance to their mindscape when they cower under imagined fear. It is a pity that after months of slogging, a majority still lurches in a negative range, dwelling chiefly on all the adverse probabilities that can nullify their efforts.

When we know that our children have used every ounce of their intelligence, put in every hour possible and are all set to give their best shot at the tests, we must pull out all the stops to uproot the fear of failure that grips them unconsciously and makes their exam date analogous to the Ides of March.


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Many parents that I meet aver that they put no pressure on their children. The pressure is often self-created, imported from outside home, inspired by peers and society. Point taken — but are we doing enough to weed out the pressure and talk them out of it?

There are simple things we can do. Give them brain points for the work they are doing, appreciate their seriousness in studies, convince them that their willingness to work is their greatest virtue which will take them far afield. But, for that, we as parents and teachers must first be sure about the value of hard work that will bring long-term results, than to give credit to just numbers and percentages.

Their fear, as we know, is not of failure as in ‘flunking’. They fear not measuring up to our expectations.

They panic about not being able to deliver when they are called up. They worry that they will not make it in the rough and tumble of this world.

Our children don’t deserve to live in this fright, not after giving all they have to their studies.


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This exam season, let us help our children look their fear in the eye. Let them know that fear in a limited measure has a place in their settings — but only as a stimulus. A dot of fear is good to keep them spurred and out of complacency. But fear cannot be given power to paralyze their capabilities and reduce them to nervous wrecks.

Hammer in the fact that if anything, fear can only take away from all the hard work they have put in and fog up their mind. Encourage them to hop over the fence and perform from a space of positivity, inspired by a sense of self-worth and confidence. If they have prepared well, then they have nothing to be afraid of.

They have the strength of their intelligence and resolve to bank on — and the influence of a universe that will favour them. It is from this wellspring of optimism that they should launch their future, and not from an imagined region of diffidence and fear. Let’s give them a new perspective to build their lives on.

Let not exams intimidate them and invalidate their inner power. Let not exams bully them into believing that they aren’t good enough.

They are competent and primed for success as long as they are determined and driven. This belief is what we must implant in them when they fret. We are our kids’ bolsters. Let us not become their partners in fright. Or for that matter, in their flight.

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