Don’t put children under mental stress, as anxiety spoils performance in exams, psychiatrists warn parents

Come March 1, thousands of Plus Two State Board students will begin their march towards the next stage in life.

As the marks scored in crucial public examinations decide the next course and career, it is natural that several families will be gripped with fear and anxiety during this crucial period.

Students and parents are under pressure — for different reasons — even though leading psychiatrists in Madurai say that it is unwarranted.

Totally, 34,506 students are appearing for Class XII Board examinations, to be held from March 1 to March 27, in Madurai district this year.

Since public examinations for CBSE and ICSE streams too are set to commence, health experts have come with suggestions for anxious parents so that the encouragement/emotional support at home will boost students’ performance in examination hall.

“Parental pressure and relatives’ sarcastic remarks will damage the morale of students. Don’t put your children under mental stress. Maximal anxiety spoils performance in examinations,” I. Selvamani Thinakaran, senior consultant psychiatrist, here tells parents.

Psychological crisis

Her advice assumes significance as many families plunge into psychological crisis ahead of Plus Two examinations for various reasons. Determination and self-confidence would be the deciding factors in these testing times.

S. Pechiammal, a Plus Two student of Nirmala Girls Higher Secondary School, is an example. She lost her father just a few days ago and missed classes.

After suffering the initial trauma, the family had no other go but to make her focus on exams.

“My father was an auto driver and he died of tuberculosis. My mother is a domestic help. I want to do well in exams and become a software engineer as per my father’s wish,” the girl who scored 985 marks in half-yearly examinations, says with confidence despite grief.

Whether it is for a weak or bright student, it is the parents’ motivational words that make the difference. “Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Parents must understand the capability of the child and avoid critical comments,” says V. Ramanujam, professor of psychiatry, Government Rajaji Hospital.

Positive words

There are parents who sacrifice lot of things for one year to see that their child feels comfortable at home. R. Seenichamy, a businessman in Tallakulam, utters positive words to keep his son focused.

“He is a grown up boy and there is no need to scold him. Parents will undergo pressure because they have to arrange for money to get engineering seat in a good college and other expenses too will increase the family budget. I told my son not to worry and we are here to support him,” he says.

Dr.Selvamani Thinakaran cautions parents to avoid making comparisons and never discourage children because mental pressure may lead to physical illness during exams.

She cites the example of a Plus Two student from Namakkal who lost focus after he got fever two months back and had to undergo psychotherapy.

“He scored 480 marks in Tenth standard. This brilliant boy got depressed and was referred to me. After counselling, he became normal and he will be writing Plus Two exams this year,” she says.

If city students are under pressure to score high marks, the situation is different in the Government Higher Secondary School at Chathirapatti near Oomachikulam. Here, at least 35 out of a total 247 Plus Two students do not turn up for classes and teachers find it tough to handle them.

“Some students are going as daily wage workers and examinations are secondary for them. Parents are also not cooperating,” laments M. Mariappan, Headmaster.

For those parents who are worried whether their child will pass the public exams, there are another large group of parents particularly in educated families where they expect their son or daughter to become topper and score State ranks.

For them, S. Premalatha, senior Principal, Mahatma Group of Schools, has an advice.

“It is too late to set a goal now, give your child lot of moral support and take care of their health,” she says. Students on their part must practice old question papers and be thorough with important chapters rather than getting worried about the entire portion in each subject.

Dr.Ramanujam says that Plus Two students face pressure from parents, teachers, relatives and friends. “Schools want toppers and ranks since they think from commercial angle. A student can perform only to the extent of his capacity,” he explains.