Exams for children - Tips for parents

Parentree-editors 2009-01-09 11:44:22

With examination time round the corner, it is common for parents too to feel the stress. So the 1st tip to all parents is - Don’t be stressed

  • Your being stressed is not only bad for you but is also detrimental  for your child’s best interest, especially during exam time
  • To begin with, your child will feel your anxiety and that will make the child nervous and unsure of his/her own capabilities and preparation.
  • The child needs extra care and handling during this period, your getting stressed may inhibit your capacity to provide adequate support and guidance.
  • The manner in which you handle and cope with the child’s examination time will set a precedent for shaping you’re his/her own attitude to challenges in life.

Do not nag

No good comes of it. Nagging is usually an expression of one’s own frustration at not being understood or heard. A steady involvement through out the year in the child’s education is a better way to get positive results. If you haven’t been able to do so through out the year, now’s not the time to stress yourself and the kid by constant nagging.  Instead focus on finding ways and means to escalate your involvement in a sustainable manner.

Encourage and reinforce

Help the child believe in himself/herself and reassure them of your love, no matter what. You’d be surprised to know that kids are more worried about fulfilling their parents’ expectations than parents give them credit for. Offer to help with revision in which ever way you can. You may have to plan some time for this too! Offering words of encouragement though necessary is not sufficient, back it with real time help.

Feed them well

Anxious kids tend to either get off food, or begin binging. Watch out for both kinds of symptoms. Invest time and energy in cooking healthy favourite foods. Give them lots of fluids. Children who study during late hours often feel hungry and fatigued. If you can set up an alarm for yourself to get up at frequent intervals to give them a healthy snack, good, otherwise at least stock up with their favourite fruits/snacks which are easy to access! Let them know about it. Give them nuts and vitamins. Make sure they chew their food well. A peanut chewed well gives more oxygen to the brain than a whole meal gobbled up. It is not a good idea to give them caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee, cause though they may help them stay awake, they make the kids hyper.


Talking about exams in a normal way goes a long way in diminishing associated anxieties. Discuss the syllabus, the revision schedule, anecdotes about your own exam times, fun times with the teachers. All this helps put things in perspective. Explain how examination is just one aspect of education, not the be all and end all. Of course to do so, you too have to believe so. If you yourself are disproportionately concerned with exams and results, read about famous successful people who have made a mark in life, though not at school.

Schedule fun time

Days before an exam do not necessarily mean halting good times altogether. It is as necessary to unwind and relax in these days as in normal times, if not more. Chose the period of the day when the kid is likely to be most tired and jaded to do his favourite thing. Children who play a musical instrument will find doing some riyaz very invigorating. Just remember to let him play the instrument as a means of unwinding and not as a practice session. A few hoops of basket ball with friends may be the most effective way for another kid to beat the stress. A normally physically active kid will get frustrated if you do not let him go outdoors. While you may insist that the child conserve energy and not play too hard, moderate exercise can only do him/her good by clearing up the mind and de-stressing. Allow the child some TV time or play time after attempting a mock test.

Focus on understanding and learning

Help the child see exams as just another milestone in their over all learning process. Acknowledge that the examination system is not fool proof and may not adequately reflect their strengths and weaknesses.  Explain importance of success in examination in context to gaining opportunities and not as an assessment of self worth.

No comparisons with others

However tempting it may be, do not resort to comparing either efforts or results with those of other kids / siblings. If you have to compare, compare with the child’s own potential or the child’s other interests. Be realistic in your expectations from your child. Base them on his/her own potential and past performances, not on others!

Ensure adequate rest

A child may not get enough sleep and rest, parents need to step in here. Other siblings activities or your own socializing may have to be curtailed to ensure that the kid who stayed up till late hours of the night gets adequate amount of sleep. Sometimes parents may have to just insist that a child sleep even if the scheduled amount of study has not been completed. Help the child prioritize. For eg..a child who spends too much time on studying a subject he has difficulty in could be encouraged to instead focus on the subjects he is strong in, instead of exhausting himself in the difficult subject and messing up everything else too. If need be, teach the child relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualising etc ..

Take care of logistics

  • Stock up relevant stationery - pens, markers, geometry boxes, maps, whatever it is that the child is likely to require. Sit down with the child well in advance and go over the list. Schedule time to shop for it so that if something is unsuitable there’s enough time to go back. The last thing you want is a child getting stressed for want of a compass before his Maths exam.
  • Check out the examination centre and the modes of transport to it, expected time to reach there etc..Factor in things like traffic jams etc..
  • Be sure at least one parent is totally available.

On the day of the exam

  • Be calm, be positive.
  • Wake up child well in time on the day of the exam so as to not feel rushed. Get the child in the habit of sleeping and waking by a certain time, in the few days leading to the exam day.
  • Give a light breakfast, no new or unfamiliar thing on the day.
  • Don’t let the child drink too much, may otherwise need too many bathroom breaks. Insist the child visit the washroom before exam begins.
  • Ensure your child reaches examination centre well in time.
  • Find out how your child feels about your waiting outside. While some children feel reassured, others feel pressured.
  • Be where the child expects you to be once the exam is over.
  • Discuss the paper just finished only to the extent that helps with preparing for the next. Spending too much time on evaluating mistakes made may depress the kid. Focus on solutions and corrective action.
  • No negative statements, even if paper has been extremely bad. Do not hurt the child’s self esteem.
  • Reward efforts. If time permits even between exams allow the kid a breather or a treat, like a movie or an ice cream sundae at his favourite parlour...

Once these exams get over, there will be some other exams or challenge that your child shall have to start preparing for. So retain perspective. When we were young, we thought our parents had it easy - No school, No exams! (Doesn’t seem so now!) In the grand scheme of life, we realized exams are just a small part. That is exactly how it will be for our kids too. We need to help them learn this and remind them and ourselves that - This too shall pass.  


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