How to survive entrance exams unscathed: 6 tips for parents and their children

Markéta Miláčková

Insomnia, problems with food and digestion, anxiety, panic, depression, self-harm - 6 tips to survive the entrance exam period without these symptoms

The middle of April is approaching, and for ninth graders and their families, the stressful period is at its peak. Up to 40 percent of ninth-grade elementary school students show (according to a study by scientists of the National Institute of Mental Health (NUDZ), which they conducted in elementary schools last year (Source: ČTK)) signs of moderate to severe depression, and 30 percent of them show signs of anxiety. At our clinic, we also encounter cases where students suffer from insomnia, eating disorders, panic attacks, self-harm or even thoughts of suicide under the pressure of entrance exams. Of course, this is the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully no one who is affected by this is staying calm around the high school admissions process.

According to data from the Ministry of Education, more than 100,000 pupils left the ninth grade of primary schools last year, which was a tenth more than the year before. At the same time, there are fewer places for future high school students. The number of graduating ninth-graders will not decrease this year either, and according to the estimates of the Czech Statistical Office, the number of these children will not decrease significantly until 2030. Stress for families of ninth-graders begins many months before admissions. In order to get to the school of their dreams, the students will postpone all their free time and devote themselves to tutoring until April. In these weeks, a challenging period of several months culminates for pupils and their parents. Let's look at some tips that can help you survive this stress without serious consequences - if you haven't started yet, it's high time.

  1. Prepare for a difficult period and boost your strength

It is good to plan your preparation and rest. When we know we're going to run a marathon, we don't give up all our energy at the beginning and we eat regularly along the way. It is therefore good to count on regeneration and rest and not to push only on preparation. Thanks to the plan, students/pupils and parents could have more peace of mind that the preparation is taking place adequately even during the moments or days when they are resting. Chemical substances produced by stress can wash away in the body during such a period. Even though there is still a lot to be done and time is short, it is important not to forget to rest and not to be so exhausted by the preparation that there is no energy left for the performance itself.

  1. Dirty tests

When I know what awaits me, the level of stress in a given stressful situation is reduced. When I'm less stressed, my cognitive functions can work better - I can focus better, learn new things better, and recall previously learned information better. If you can, take advantage. If, for example, your financial situation does not allow it, try to simulate the exam situation at home as much as possible. Many elementary schools offer their students preparation for entrance exams from drama - even there you can find or ask for "unclean exams".

  1. Use help and support, avoid stressors

You are in this together – parents, children, other people around you. Take advantage of the support and don't let the crowd hysteria drag you down. A group of people has enormous power - so be careful whether you are moving in a group that tends to support and calm you, or whether it tends to burden you and drag you into heavy emotions and thoughts. In such a case, it is better to avoid such a community, at least at a time when it is difficult for you.

  1. Align your priorities

Admissions will certainly affect the following studies, let's not reduce their importance, but in life there are also more important values (every family has different ones) and alternative life paths. Talk about it together, try to support the strength and cohesion of your family by also building experiences other than preparing for admissions. Moreover, who among us knows what our society will look like by the time today's ninth graders enter the workforce? It seems that the ability to think, to adapt, to be aware of one's emotions and to work with them, including the consequences of stress, to communicate well and to create functional relationships in the wider community will become increasingly important.

  1. Learn to relax

We recommend this to parents and children. In this way, you can release at least a little tension and gain strength for the next stage, and if you practice relaxation together, you will also gain common experiences and strengthen the feeling that you are in it together. There are many types of relaxation, you can find instructions or directly spoken relaxations on the Internet - try them and find what suits you. It will help you to wash away the daily stress and the tension from the admissions should not increase, or at least not so quickly. We have one of the tips right here – lie on the floor on a flat mat, you can support your head with a pillow. Place your hands on your stomach, close your eyes and focus on your breath, feeling your hands rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Just feel it for a moment. Gradually begin to imagine that the breath is pulsating like sea waves and that each exhalation removes a bit of tension from your body... You can feel yourself gradually relaxing... If you want, you can listen to pleasant calm music or the sounds of the sea...

For those who this method does not work and lying in it tends to increase restlessness from inactivity, they can start with relaxations that are based on the contrast of tension and relaxation, e.g. Jacobson's relaxation. You will surely find your own way. It is important to make time and space for relaxation and not push the saw - it is not about performance, but about its counterbalance.

  1. Contact an expert

If nothing helps, don't be afraid to contact a professional. The therapist will discuss your situation with you, together you will find specific ways of relief. Better come on time. Signals that stress and its consequences exceed the normal level can be the following: difficulty falling asleep or frequent awakenings, inexplicable inadequate attacks of fear, significantly greater irritability spoiling previously good relationships, various health problems (indigestion, eczema, musculoskeletal pain) and others.

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

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