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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Parents, don’t stress kids over exam results

Parents, don’t stress kids over exam results

Parents, don’t stress kids over exam results
Experts in the city sound the alarm as suicide helplines get buzzing with frantic calls from students in the run up to the big result day.

It's just a short while away from the results of the biggest examinations — SSC and HSC — and already parents and their offspring have hit the panic button over what the outcome will be. While it is true that results can show the path towards a child's academic future, the pressure to do well is also making parents frenzied, over-stressed and high-strung. Student helplines have been ringing constantly and psychologists are seeing a rise in cases of student depression in the run-up to D-Day. While everything may be riding on this for young students, it is also a delicate stage in their lives, and parents often sadly forget this fact. "It's a time when parents conjure up worst-case scenarios and lay pressure on the child," says psychologist Malini Krishnan. "He or she is already nervous and parents too have anxieties, which is understandable. But if they are not careful as to what they say it will just add to a sense of failure and lead to breakdown in a child if he or she is vulnerable and on the edge," she warns.

Suicide rates on the rise
Sadly, while restlessness, loss of appetite and sleepless nights are just some of the symptoms, they can also manifest in suicidal feelings. Fear and distress have led to suicide in several cases (see box). "Suicide rates are on the increase," affirms Johnson Thomas, director of Aasra, a helpline that aids suicide prevention.

Latest figures from the organisation show that this year, the number of calls from students to the helpline is 30 a day. "These can be exam related or other factors can be involved," he says, adding, "The days before the result unavoidably bring about uneasiness, impatience, sleepless nights, loss of appetite and worry. Students have negative thoughts that if their percentage does not meet expectations, they might get humiliated. Often, what happens is when youngsters do confide their suicidal tendencies to their friends and family, the warning is usually not taken seriously and sometimes even brushed off as emotional blackmail. But, here is a child who is saying he or she is fed up, so the plea should never be ignored."

'Parents, you have given birth to a child, not a marksheet'
Social psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty cautions against letting things go out of hand. "One exam does not define life," says Dr Shetty. It is not a milestone but a stone with many miles to go. Parents must share their anxieties with other parents and counsellors. Remind yourself that you have given birth to a child, not a marksheet." Adds Thomas, "It's the parents here who are in for learning. They need to be trained in parenting."

Krishnan feels parents ought to put themselves in their child's shoes. "In doing so they will be more conscious of what they are saying, and it will make them more aware of what the child goes through. Basically, they must convey they message that, 'I am with you'. They must show support to the child," she says.

One way out: get kids to do an activity
A study says exercise may help protect children from stress. Taking a walk, a swim, shopping, or even clearing the room can help dealing with worry.

Recent cases of suicide

1. This March, a news report mentioned that Rani Muniraju, a second-year pre-university student, hung herself. Apparently, she was worried she wouldn't clear her Business Studies paper and was "very depressed".

2. In Surat, four students of Class X and XII committed suicide this March, apparently due to Board exam stress.
3. This March, a 19-year-old engineering student committed suicide after jumping off a highrise at Thakur Village in Kandivli (E). He had sent a text message to his mother saying he couldn't cope with college studies.

4. In May in Chennai, three cases were reported as the results of final exams began coming out. In the first incident, a class IX student, Abirami, hung herself from the ceiling. In the second, in Velachery, Meera (17), who was awaiting Plus Two results, set herself ablaze and in the third, Shyam Immanuel (17), awaiting Plus Two results, consumed pesticide at his house.

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