“Ignore everything and focus on your studies,” does this ring any familiarity? Likely yes, if your child is studying in class 11th-12th and preparing for competitive exams like JEE, AIIMS and NEET. Very honestly, I too have used this more often than I would like to admit. But did it work the way it was intended to? I found my answer through some self-teaching, and research to understand certain things that ironically one knows but ignores. Sharing the thoughts which I feel, has helped me and my child and shall feel glad if these, help even one child or parent.
1. Take the burden off him :
The academic pressure is immense at this time, both for student as well as parents. However, studies (courtesy, Tata Institute of Social Science) show that stories with non-academic factors are much more anxiety provoking than the exams themselves for the students. In other words, children who are already in a vulnerable state, a high-pressure situation can be proved to de detrimental instead of encouraging. Remember, he is also studying for Board Exams. So, take that burden off him. Tell him that It’s just an exam and not his life. Even though we do know how important these exams are, sometimes it’s better to play it down. He may clear it or not, but eventually he will find his true calling and standing. And yes, never ever use the sentences such as “your life depends on this” or “if you want to do well in life, you must do well in these exams”! Let him see the life in broader perspective, of which these exams too are a part but not everything.
2. Be his safety valve and respect his individuality:
There are times when he feels pressurised because of external factors, which may not be in your control and there I act as his safety valve. I let him speak his heart out, without being judgemental- oh gosh! Did it take me time to reach here!! Sometimes, I also act as a buffer between him and his teachers, who sometimes go overboard in terms of expectations. I do remember this particular incident at the PTA where one of his teachers, told him to study for twelve hours, if he wanted to get good ranking in the JEE (Joint Entrance Examination). Now, I didn’t have an iota of doubt about his intent vis-a-vis my son’s academic progress, but I did feel that it wouldn’t be fair to put my child through this. The first thing I told him after I left the school, was to forget those words, “I know you are working hard enough as per your capacity and perhaps know its value too. Maybe you can stretch it a bit more but no need to do something that you wouldn’t be able to sustain in the long run.” While I have come across children who do study for twelve hours, it was important for me to know the individuality of my child and stand with him with that.
3. Keep an hour for anything that the two of you can do together:
Go for swimming or any other sports of your liking, watch ‘Friends’, (you two can choose your own stuff), laugh at silly jokes and yeah we do indulge in school gossip too, while he eats his lunch and dinner. That makes the atmosphere at my home happy, stress free, besides filling my treasure trove with some amazing memories. Also, try to make a schedule where he gets good sleep, adequate nutrition and exercise. Learning is about absorbing and that can happen only if the child is sufficiently relaxed and rested.
4. Do not display your nervousness:
Displaying your nervousness to the child is quite common and out of that we keep nudging them to study. But believe me, it doesn’t help. In their late teens, they are perhaps more likely to rebel. It wasn’t so long ago when I would do this exact thing and tell him every now and then, to study. Soon enough he went like “Oh, I was to, but now I don’t feel up to it” and he deliberately wouldn’t study. I did realise that while this was a very important time for his career, it was also important in his personal space, as he is trying to find a footing in the life in the larger picture. And I had to learn to accept that. It has helped. Now I keep calm and have learnt to trust him with his studies.
5. Do not discuss about the exams too much amongst your friends:
If you are reading this, it may sound contradictory to what I am going to write but my advice will be to stay clear of too much discussion about it amongst your friends and trying to find too may ‘HOWs’ and ‘WHATs’ on the internet pertaining to his preparation. The child is now responsible enough, knows what he can/can not do and works accordingly. Let’s stand with him and not behind him to push him every time. He doesn’t need that. Direct your query to the correct and professionally competent person.
6. There should always be a plan B: Despite your best efforts, there still could be chances of the result being different than what you had expected and then perhaps, you and your child may need a plan B. Even while my son is preparing for these competitive exams, I sometimes do drop a line or two. “You are working hard and that’s great but must say that Institute X or Institute Z is also nice, should you need them”, “You are very good with your Physics, maybe you can give a thought to getting into hard core Physics, if this doesn’t work out”. You can say something else- the crux is preparing him for plan B
The point in a nutshell is, as long as you understand him and his individuality, things are going to be absolutely fine and your child shall find his own sky.
PS If your child is enrolled with any coaching institute, His rank may/may not vary after each internal exam. Do not get stressed about it, if it varies. Ultimately, he will get what he deserves…Just remember- Life is much beyond these rankings and these exams!
All the best to each and every child preparing for these exams.