How to Help Students Cope with Academic Pressure
Academic pressure is the greatest stress in the life of most students. The pressure of studies is so much that it is driving teenagers to suicide. This is a worrisome statistic indeed. And a finding that is sure to cast a shadow of terror on the hearts of all parents.
Academic stress is inevitable. Students who have to take exams and do well in them are bound to be stressed. But the stress must be managed appropriately with the help of the parents so that the pressure of studies does not increase to such an extent that it pushes children to take drastic steps like suicide.
What is Academic Pressure?
Academic pressure is the stress experienced by students because of their inability to perform well enough in school or their fear that they will be unable to perform well enough in school.
The four components of academic pressure are:
- Academic frustration – leading to children giving up on studying and doing badly in exams
- Academic conflicts – happen when children are forced to study against their will
- Academic anxieties – the fear of exams
- Academic pressures – The feeling of being overwhelmed by a large syllabus.
Students suffering from academic pressure can be classified into 3 categories –
- The children who are already failing
- Children who are average performers and always worried about failing
- Children who are toppers and are always worried about not topping
All three categories of students are sure to experience academic pressure – but the signs of the pressure are different in all three categories of students. And it is important for parents to identify these signs and reach out for help urgently when they see them
Signs of Pressure of studies on children
1. Signs of academic pressure in children who are already failing.
There are some children who are always at the bottom of the class. They fool around during class, they don’t write notes, they disturb other children who are trying to write notes, and are often punished and made to stand outside the class. Their parents are tired of them and so are their teachers. They are labeled “Bad”. Everyone assumes that they have no desire to improve because they seem to make no effort to improve. They spend most of their time harassing others – their friends, their parents, and their teachers – with their obnoxious disruptive behavior. They are constantly watching TV or playing with their devices or they are out of the house racing bikes and doing reckless things that get them into trouble.
No. These children are not bad. They are just desperate to be good at something. They have given up hope of ever being good at academics. So they are now trying to be good at being bad. They see very little competition in that area.
2. Signs of academic pressure in children who are average.
A lot of children are labeled – “lazy” “careless” and “forgetful” by parents and teachers alike. They are too “lazy” to participate in sports, elocutions, or any other activities in school. Even if they are good at something – say art and craft – they are “forgetful” and forget to bring their paints on the day of the art competition. In the maths exam, they know the answer – but they are careless and they leave out some questions and forget to write the answers.
No. These children are not “lazy” “careless” or “forgetful”. They are just extremely worried about failing. They are gripped by the fear of failure. They want to avoid participating in activities because they want to avoid failure. They prefer to be called “lazy” “forgetful” and “careless” rather than – “stupid” “brainless” and “not talented enough”
3. Signs of academic pressure in children who top the class.
Some children are always worried. They study all the time. They don’t go out to play, they don’t talk to anyone, they don’t do anything that relaxes them, and they are always serious and afraid of fun. They study as they walk to school, they study until they have to enter the exam hall and they come out of the exam hall in panic after writing their exam – convinced that everything they have written is wrong. They don’t want to cheat – but they sometimes do – even if they know everything – because they are frightened. And they hide their marks if they get anything less than a full score.
These are children who are gripped by the fear of failure. They link their self-worth to their marks. They are terrified of losing love and friendships if they get low marks. So they study out of fear. They show all the classic signs of stress – but these are mistaken for studiousness by parents and teachers. And they are hailed as “Good” by everyone.
How can you help your child cope with academic pressure?
Stop focusing on marks
Yes it is very nice to get full marks but it is more important to know what you don’t know…what you haven’t understood or what you need to study more.
The idea of exams is to discover what you don’t know – so that you can learn that for the next exam because it is ultimately learning that will help you in the future.
If all that you look at are marks – the child:
(a) Learns to take shortcuts to get full marks – like studying from the notebook instead of the textbook – which compromises learning
(b) Cheats or scores marks by dishonest means – because her/his self-worth is linked to those marks
(c) Develops low self-esteem because of the absence of unconditional love
(d) Becomes a workaholic later in life – because she/he feels that work is all that matters
(e) Is always ashamed of her/himself – because the marks obtained are not well deserved. This then leads to pompousness bullying and many other things
Allow your child to decide how many marks she/he finds are acceptable and tailor your expectations to meet that level. There is no point in pushing a child who is not inclined towards getting full marks in math. If your child is happy with a 60% – accept 60%. If however, your child wants a 100% – work on a plan that will help her/him get there.
[Related article: Should You Pay Your Children For Good Grades?]
Understand and explain the true meaning of exams
It is easy to misunderstand why we take exams.
The purpose of exams is to allow us to understand what we have not understood so far – so that we can learn it again.
The purpose of exams is not – to show someone else (the teacher) how much we know- but to realize how much we know and what we don’t.
Unfortunately, however, since exams are usually such a public affair – it is best to encourage children to test themselves on their knowledge before they go for the exam.
- Encourage your child to solve all the questions given at the end of the chapter
- Arrange for your child to solve all the available question papers
[Related article: How to Know that Your Child Needs Help at School]
Assure your child that teachers are not out to fail us
It is strange – but there is a belief among students and parents alike that in an exam – the teacher sets the paper and corrects it with the objective of failing the child.
Nothing can be further from the truth, however. Because the only way a teacher can prove to herself and to others that she is an effective teacher is – by ensuring that all the students she teaches pass the exam.
Question papers have 50 % marks allotted to very basic questions – so that everyone passes. Only 5% of questions in any question paper are likely to be difficult. These are set for those students who have studied everything from their own textbooks and have also studied the chapter from other books and journals.
There is no point in worrying about these 5% questions because they are not from the book at all. Those who are already scoring 90% and want those 5% marks – must relax – keep their eyes and ears open to absorb knowledge from everywhere and read books that are not part of the prescribed syllabus.
Help your child with goal setting
It is impossible to succeed with a vague goal like – I will come first in class.
A goal has to be very specific:
“I already get 80% marks in Maths – in the next exam I am going to aim for 90%”
“This time I got only 55% marks in English – I will aim for 65% marks in the next exam”.
Help your child to analyze why she/he is getting 55% and not 65%.
Pinpoint specific areas for improvement.
Allocate a particular time every day to work on that particular area. Research has proved that 20 hours of work can make you an expert in any skill. So build those 20 hours into your child’s schedule.
Analyzing – diagnosing the problem and figuring out what needs to be done next may require expert help. If you need help – reach out for help early. The sooner you connect with the expert – the easier it will be for you to implement the expert’s advice.
Specific goals must be set for each day – each week and each month.
Help your child with time management
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that children have too much to do. And one of their biggest challenges is that they are not able to prioritize because they lack time management. What is important never gets done because there are so many urgent things that take up their time every day.
[Related article: Best Time Management Tips for Online Learning].
You might also be interested to take a look at our recent blogs for more learning tips and guides.
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