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It’s Mother’s Day today, and while many mothers will be spoiled by their children and husbands, it is also a time when they will be concerned about how well their children are handling the stress of their forthcoming exams.

Although it is healthy for children to experience a measure of anxiety, as it acts as a motivating factor to study harder, excessive anxiety can impact a child’s ability to study.

 Indications of excessive anxiety include:

  • Avoiding study and any conversation about exams.
  • Complaints of upset stomachs, nausea, palpitations and headaches.
  • Excessive or reduced hunger.
  • Noticeable changes in sleeping habits.
  • Outbursts of anger and irritability.
  • Inability to focus.

 How you can help:

  • Talk to your child about his/her concerns about exams. Confronting fears helps rationalise the issue; avoiding it will increase angst.
  • Help your child break down the study material; identify important parts and allocate appropriate amounts of study time.
  • Allow ‘rewards’ for productive study sessions. Small treats and periodic recreational activities help children de-stress, while excessive rigidity and complete ‘bans’ on social and recreational activity can be demotivating and lead to mental fatigue.
  • Put the situation into perspective. Give your child the worst case scenario and ask him/her to reflect upon the possible outcomes. This will help him/her realise that a sub-par performance does not spell the end of the world. (Parents should remind themselves of this fact too!)
  • Offer as many clear expressions of love and support as possible, such as a hug. They can create a sense of security and help reduce anxiety.

– Ishma Alvi
The writer is a practising psychologist.

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