Monday, October 17, 2011

Prepare your child to manage his/her stress

The single biggest factor that causes difference between high capability of your child and his lower score, either in exams or test, is stress. However, most of the time, other than frequent pronouncements such as 'Do not take stress' or 'Be calm', we do not actively help our child in managing his stress.

However, if you have read stock and flow model of stress management, you will now be able to do something very specific to help your child reduce his stress. As you would recall, the actions of managing stress have to be three-pronged ( one pronged attack on stress is not effective):

1. Reduce event level stress

a. Subject level stress

For instance, your child is more stressed in English or science, because he finds that subject difficult to understand. Or sometimes, even if she understand mathematics well, she does not understand one chapter well.  Sometimes you will find that your child understands a chapter, say in English, but is unable to 'articulate' it in proper words. I have found some children find it difficult to 'memorise'   incidents such as in History or Geography. In other words, do not generalise a problem. Do not accept blanket statements that 'I do not understand science'. Instead understand the specific cause of failure, be it subject or chapter, and address the specific problem. Take help of coaching class or teacher, if needed.

b. Exam-writing stress

Second major reason of faring poorly in exams is the child's inability to respond appropriately in an exam, despite his knowing the subject well. Simple instructions in the paper are ignored, a key point in a question is overlooked or some silly mistake like wrong numbering is done while answering. If this is happening only in one subject, then the reason is due to first point (subject level stress) , not due to exam writing stress.

However, if your child is faring poorly (than expected) in most of exams, or across subjects, then it is important to understand his 'style' of writing exams. Here you need to understand what your child does during the exam. Take a case of a recent exam and find out his method of 'answering' the exam: how does he decide which question to answer first, how does he verify later, if he takes more than expected time to answer a question what modification does he make in answering the rest of paper. If he is unable to explain, which is often the case, either get his answer paper ( where he has fared poorly than what he expected) from the class teacher, or the coaching class teacher. This 'process of enquiry' is important to help your child appreciate that 'his method' of answering exam has to be 'altered'.

Once your child's specific 'issues' have been understood, then prepare a 'exam-answering' plan that is mutually agreeable to your child. While preparing the plan include appropriate set of generic 'solutions' such as sleep well before the exam, do not study till the last moment, answer easy questions before attempting difficult questions, and so on.

The last, and most important step, is to find if your child can 'execute' the plan as decided. This will require help from teachers, or giving exams at home to see if the child is able to 'follow' the agreed plan. Unless the plan is 'fine tuned', it does not work. Here the practice of giving repeated exams to children is helpful.

2. Increase his assimilation threshold

Athletes, like your child, work throughout the year. To win the gold medal, they have to fare well in those critical 'five minutes' in Olympic games or World championships.  Like your child, outcome of the full year of their effort is 'visible' by the performance in those few critical minutes. How do they deal with this stress?

Sports Psychologists help them 'defocus' from the end result by 'focussing' on the process of reaching the goal. By defocussing the attention from the eventual 'medal', the athlete is able to concentrate on today's effort. And by doing the right things today, he prepares in the best way possible. Even while during the championship, because he is not focused on the result, he paradoxically produces his best performance. Psychologists have discovered that this is the best known way to bring out the best performance in endeavors which are evaluated in such 'short time-windows'.

You have to help your child in the same way. Instead, I have seen parents do the exact opposite. They constantly remind their child about the eventual goal of 90% marks and increase the stress further. I have seen some parents say that if they do not remind their child that they have to get so much marks, they may lose focus. But that is not proved to happen !

There are various ways of practicing this method. You have to find a method that suits your home culture and your child. I have seen a family practice the principles of BhagwadGeeta, which states " Just do your Karma(work)'. Forget the end result, as it is not in your hand.  It really helps your child not just managing his exam stress, but even his stress in the future life. That is a really innovative way of increasing assimilation threshold.

3. Diffuse accumulated stress

Despite all the precautions, because a child's 3-hour performance is going to measure his full year effort, he does accumulate stress in his body. That is inevitable.

Yoga is the best medicine for releasing this stress. A half an hour yoga every day is enough to release the accumulated stress in the body. However, if that is difficult to implement, then undertaking any physical activity like playing a game of cricket is also helpful. If your child has a hobby of music, it is a good solution, but one still need to find a way of 'physical release of stress'.

Believe me, if you can do this for your child, you will have armed your child with a tool of stress management on which he can rely throughout his life.

No comments: