Taking an entrance exam is one of the big life stressors for children and their families. Keeping some of these things in mind may help the family get through this demanding time with a lot more grace and perspective.
In school children may learn a lot about history, language, arts and science but what they don’t learn are life skills such as how to set achievable goals, how to handle stress and how to deal with emotional and mental obstacles. Teach children how to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals, as well as planning for roadblocks such as laziness, distraction and procrastination they will face on their way. These lessons will not only help them get into their school of choice but also get ahead in life.
As a parent you have many years of life and experience under your belt. You know that this may not be a difficult task or a big deal, but the child who does not have such life experiences believes that failing or passing this test is the be-all and end-all to their existence. Their self-worth and self-identity is very much tied to their school success and your subsequent approval. So use this time to sit with your child, hear their anxieties, ask what they are worried about and then try to problem-solve it with them.
Developing emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is essentially about managing emotions, our own and those within interactions. Much of test taking is being able to manage difficult emotions, tackling negative thoughts, and being able to stay focused while being under pressure. Teach them how to take the test, not just learn what’s on it.
Parents need to be aware of their unconscious agendas that are playing out with their children and learn how to manage them. Parents falsely believe that they go unnoticed or unfelt by children, but children are extremely sensitive to the needs, wants and anxieties of parents.
Narcissistic thoughts such as ‘my child has to get into the best school/college and that will show the world what an amazing parent I am’ or fear-based agendas such as ‘my child has to get into the best school to ensure their life success and happiness’ are playing out in the background for parents and their children and put extreme pressure on everyone involved. By becoming aware of these, parents can choose a different way of being that is value-based.
The focus should be on the journey towards the entrance exam, and not just the outcome of the exam. Because in the final analysis, it is those character strengths and virtues that are going to be the traits that will determine his/her long-term success.
We all know of someone who grew up privileged, went to the right schools, and got into the right college but did not have the life skills to withstand obstacles or push through the mental chatter when the going got tough. Use life events such as entrance exams to really develop the child’s character and not just their CV.
— Dr Saliha Afridi is a clinical psychologist and managing director of the mental health and wellness clinic The Lighthouse