Board examinations are fast approaching and the tension is building in many households. In many cases, while the students proceed calmly, their parents get hyper, though one can't blame them, such is the importance attached to these exams in India. However, there's a clear difference between affectionate concern and anxiety, which can morph into panic and get offloaded onto the child.
Parents who have been there, done that say that one should be realistic and supportive - being there for them when the kids need them without being overbearing. Nagging and comparing kids with other students are a no-no.
Savita Vasesi says was she was very stressed before her daughters took their board exams a few years ago, especially because "one doesn't know how the students will be marked. We have seen children who are bright but don't get the expected marks." Vasesi literally walked the ground with her daughters. She got them tutors and ferried them to private classes and chose to be realistic about their performance as per their ability.
"I thought what will be, will be," says Vasesi, a teacher in a leading Delhi school.
Geeta Mehrotra says she was so "cool" that she forgot to wish her son the best on the day of his Class 12 board examination. "I thought maybe I did a blunder. But then I thought about it. My son was happy. I was happy. He never went for any private tuition, except for maths for a total of about seven-eight months in Class 11 and Class 12. There was no studying throughout the night," says Mehrotra, who is also a teacher and counsellor for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) helpline. Her son, from the science stream, scored about 84% and joined the Army.
Mehrotra says parents should recognise that by Class 12, the student, when s/he is on the threshold of adulthood, knows what is expected of him/her. "The student knows what he is supposed to do. I see students who talk so sensibly. They know their duties and responsibilities. Once in a while, you need to remind them (about the exams) like friends, not like dictators." Keep yourself updated about his academic performance at school throughout the year. Be a support system.
Another parent and CBSE helpline counsellor, Geetanjali Kumar, echoes the same advice. "You could ask, for example, 'Have you achieved your task for the day?" she says. Vasesi recounts sometimes asking her daughters questions from the notebook (even if she didn't know the subject herself).
Kumar says that parents can be akin to a refrigerator for their kids. "Whenever he wants something, he can open it, peep in and see what's there for him?" says Kumar whose son is going to going to appear for his Class 12 commerce exams this year. Accept your child for who he is. "Be an emotional anchor for them and give unconditional acceptance. Tell your child, 'Darling you are my child, whether you get 60 or 70%'," she elaborates. There are colleges where you can get a seat even without a 90-plus score and so many competitive examinations for professional courses, she says. "I told my son, 'You'll clear one or the other. The boards are just like a warm-up exam," says Kumar, whose son is a basketball player.
Vasesi suggests, "Parents should chalk out diet, study and rest plans for their children. Understand the child's capability. Be equally involved with the child. Know his position in class and be in regular touch with his teachers." Should working parents take time off to be with their children during exam time? "Only if the child wants it," Kumar says. "It's the quality of time spent that matters." While at work, she says she's available to her son by phone.