Are we choking our kids with academic pressure?

All children are expected to perform well academically, simply because society gives a lot of importance to academic brilliance. This spirals into parental pressure where children are pushed to the edge to get higher grades and build a more successful future. The whole thing is made into such a big deal that it puts a lot of mental pressure on them.

The news about a class 9 student who recently died by suicide after jumping off the school building blamed her studies in the suicide note. Three days ago a UP student died by suicide after being denied to sit for exams due to non payment of fees. Dr. Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head – Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, “Adolescence is a vulnerable and sensitive age of development with underlying changes in hormones, a phase of transition and developmental changes. There is underlying biological stress. Excessive volume of academic curriculum leaves little time to focus on extracurricular constructive hobbies and recreation/relaxation. Unhealthy competition, academic load and unmet expectations, lead to negative pressure and negative perception of studies and self.
Dr Rachna K Singh, HOD – Holistic Medicine, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, Relationship, Lifestyle & Stress Management Expert has consulted adolescent children who feel burgeoned under academic pressure and competition, exam stress and fear of failure, little time for self, peer pressure and lack of support.
Dr Sameer feels it is important for parents to spend quality and quantity time with their children to be able to understand them better and help them nurture adaptive coping and life skills. “Learning to take failures as challenges and opportunities towards self improvisation and growth: one needs to counter negative thoughts with positive rational ones.”

Our educational system sadly is such that everyone is looking for the brightest students and this is defined by their academic grades. But without understanding a child’s ability and aptitude, most parents end up forcing their children to study harder, compromising on their real interests. “Parents should match a child’s ability and aptitude with rational expectations. They should understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses and try to work on their strengths. Help them attempt to overcome the weaknesses to the optimum possible by using an encouraging approach.”

Too many distractions
Unhealthy lifestyle
Negative discussions
Unhealthy competition
Excessive mobile use
Overload of academic information has led to lesser and lesser time for development of resilience and coping skills
Dr Rachna shares tips for parents and children
For parents –
1. Talk to your child about their stress. Make sure your children reach out to you during stress instead of fearing your reactions. Let them know that it is normal to feel stressed about school sometimes, and that you are there to support them.
2. Set realistic expectations. Don’t put too much pressure on your child to succeed academically. Remember that everyone learns at their own pace.
3. Help your child develop healthy coping mechanisms. This could include teaching them relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, or encouraging them to participate in physical activity. Modeling these yourself will encourage them to follow after you.
4. Encourage your child to take breaks. Make sure they are getting enough sleep and taking time for fun activities.
For children –
1. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend. Talking about your feelings can help you to feel better and to develop strategies for coping with stress. Remember that you are not alone. Many other students feel stressed about school. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
2. Set realistic/SMART goals for yourself. Don’t try to do too much at once. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
3. Take breaks. Don’t try to study for hours on end without taking a break. Get up and move around, or take a few minutes to relax and clear your head.
4. Get enough sleep. When you are well-rested, you will be better able to focus and learn.
5. Eat healthy foods. Eating healthy foods will give you the energy you need to study and to cope with stress.
6. Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and to improve your overall mood.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone learns at their own pace. Focus on your own progress and don’t worry about what other people are doing.
8. Remember that your worth is not determined by your academic performance.

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