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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time to help parents manage exam anxiety

Time to help parents manage exam anxiety

Words by Francis Kahihu (the author is an Organisational Development Practitioner)

The exams season is underway. Parents and candidates alike are united in the hope that the performance will be a happy ending to the many years of hard work. Schools are organizing for prayer meetings and other such forums to help boost the courage of both the candidates and parents as they face a defining moment of their lives. As the stakeholders go through the motions of taking the exams, focus has always been on the candidates. They have been interacting with the school curriculum and have been prepared throughout the year for the exams.

As the candidates settle down to write the exams, there is anxiety brewing at an unlikely quarter. The parents are holding their breath as they hope against hope that their children will perform well. Little or no attention is given to this group of ‘candidates’ as they prepare for the exams. It seems like anxiety is concentrated more among the parents than among the actual candidates. Throughout the next couple of weeks, the parents require psychosocial support to enable them go through the exams period in peace and in one piece.

Just why do parents get so gripped by the exam fever even more than the candidates? Several reasons could be fronted for this interesting scenario.

First: As parents grapple with the pressure of fending for their families, less time is being invested in their relationships with the children. There is an increasing number of parents who are opting to take their children to boarding schools early in life so that they can better ‘concentrate’ in their studies. Parents argue that learners rarely concentrate in their studies when at home. As exams approach, many parents realize that they can’t vouch on their children’s performance since they have not interacted with their real academic capacity. Other than glancing at the grade that their children get at the end of the term, many parents can never speak with confidence about what their children are indeed capable of doing.

Second: As much as the kids are the ones taking the exams, the pressure of ‘what next’ lies with the parents. All that the candidates have to do is sit for the exams and wait for the results which they pass on to their parents for advice on the next move. It is clear in the minds of the parents that poor performance on the part of their kids translates to busy and expensive moments early next year. Parents of kids who fail to secure good grades are engaged in rigorous and costly school search.

Third: My final reason why parents have a reason to worry about the performance of their children relates to the social pressure they are under. It is common knowledge that parents can succumb to peer pressure, just like their children do. Every parent wants to brag about the great performance of their child hence the anxiety as their children take the exams. Parents expect without fail that the first question they will be asked by friends and relatives after the results are released will relate to the performance of their child. No one wants to keep telling their friends that ‘they have not yet gone to the school to collect the results.’ In this era of technology, results are delivered on the handset with no hassle.

We then need to appreciate the pressure that parents are under and offer them appropriate support during this anxious moment.

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