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Mentoring is the key
Posted on : 24-12-2012 - Author : Vanitha

Students go through a critical phase of gaining security, status and social approval. This phase is characterised by turmoil and anxiety about one's future in terms of job, relationships etc. When not guided properly, many students succumb to mental pressure leading to depression, which in turn may be fatal.

Institutes, schools and colleges can set up mentoring cells and depute teachers to counsel, motivate and give strength to their protégés and put them on the right track. The mentoring cell must have regular meetings with their protégés. Many sensitive issues like failure in relationships, addiction to bad habits, inability to cope with academic benchmarks, prevalence of inferiority complex that cannot be discussed with one's family should be shared with mentors.
Mentors must be flexible, patient and establish empathy with the trainee, develop conviction, and establish a rapport with their students. They must define clear-cut objectives, give constructive comments to heighten the student's self awareness, behaviour and constantly track and monitor their pace of development. A lot of emotional support should be rendered, especially if the issue is fragile, sometimes even resorting to clinical intervention.

Give them choice

All professional colleges should have counselling sessions for freshers. The counsellors should closely interact with all students and teachers.  They have to convince the students that some topics need more than routine work and study.  If they are convinced that a student
cannot cope with a certain stream, they should be able to persuade the student to change course.
Parents should understand that a change of course doesn't mean inefficiency on the part of their children.  Also, if their child doesn't become an engineer or doctor he can be a distinguished person in a field of his choice.  One example is of a dental graduate who didn't want to be a dentist.  There was a businessman in him which made him a leading distributor of dental materials. He succeeded as a businessman.

Parents, stop comparing

When parents can find it in their hearts to compare the academic skills of three year olds, we can see the seeds of academic pressure sprouting already. Imagine the pressure these kids will face as they grow older. But the only healthy competition is for children to compete with themselves and not with their classmates. After every exam parents should ask their children whether or not they answered to the best of their ability. If not, why? Was it an illness during preparation for the exam, was it lack of sleep or was it plain carelessness.

This is the point that needs analysis. The fact that my child has not answered as many questions as my neighbour's child is not important. 
For our children's sakes, we parents must help schools in their effort to uproot the old pressurising sense of competition. Love of learning begins at home. And so does hatred for it!
Focus on moral, ethical growth
At the family level, elders should avoid being autocratic and refrain from using words that may injure the minds of the young and lower their self-esteem. Further, the atmosphere at home should provide a safe cushion when they return home from schools/colleges
carrying some unresolved issue or pain or feeling. Elders should carefully avoid pressurising their wards to perform.

Friends should be supportive of each other and freely exchange their thoughts and feelings.
Schools and colleges should, apart from training the students to face examinations, focus on the moral, social, ethical and emotional development of the youth. This could be ensured by arranging interactive sessions with parents and students, organising extra-curricular activities to bring out the latent talents of young people and developing their aesthetic sense. Efforts should be made to promote a scientific way of thinking, aiming at strengthening the students' problem
solving skills. This would make them less dependent and more self-believing.
Teaching should be done by relating the syllabus on hand to the existing socio-economic and cultural realities, keeping in mind the learners' psychological needs. Moreover, education should inculcate a higher sense of values such as concern for larger social problems and motivate youngsters to aspire for higher ideals.

Teach pressure management 

Let us face it. Academic pressure is a reality. The question is how to equip children to cope with it. Pressure management and frustration tolerance have to be an integral part of the curriculum. Periodically, say once a month, there could be a lecture on the subject - may be from a psychiatrist or by a personality development expert. Every school or cluster of schools must compulsorily have a trained counsellor whom students can call on a 24x7 basis.
It may also be a good idea if the schools can compile and prominently display along with its
academically successful wards, a list of illustrious wards who were not outstanding academically, but still made a mark in life.

Because of their age, proximity and similarity of situations, friends have to be the first line of defence in battling pressure. They have the primary responsibility of identifying symptoms and reporting them to counsellors/authorities/parents. 

On their part parents should resist the temptation of seeing children as their extensions, forcing them vicariously to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams, goals and desires. Children have to be given enough space and allowed to choose a discipline of their choice, only making sure that the choice is an informed one.

They should create a congenial atmosphere for their study, provide the necessary support system, and assure their children that they are backed 'through thick and thin' as long as they are on the right path.  They should realise that each child is unique and avoid unfair comparisons. Children should be made to feel that they are wanted for what they are. 

Love towards children has to be unconditional irrespective of their academic accomplishments. And please bestow an extra dollop of love to children who are 'not so smart'. It can work wonders in boosting their self-confidence. 

Guide them

There are umpteen reasons for students succumbing to academic pressures. The main reason is their anxiety and lack of confidence to face the situation. Many parents and teachers expect too much from their wards/students resulting in students developing a fear psychosis. Recently, in Kerala, an Intermediate student committed suicide because she could score only 82 per cent marks as against her parents' expectation of 90 per cent.

Many students feel ashamed to face their parents, relatives and classmates if they fail.
Too much and too little expectations should be avoided. Parents and friends should always encourage students and never resort to threats.  Schools and colleges should conduct periodical tests on the lines of the final examination which will go a long way in arresting examination fear among students.

Appreciate effort

Parents should stop putting pressure on the child to bag one of the top five ranks or score 90 plus marks. They should never threaten to severely punish him if he fails to do so. Also, they should avoid comparing him with his siblings who may have got high ranks.
This does not mean they should pay no attention to the child's study. They should encourage him to prepare for the examination to the best of his capability and advise him not to worry about the result. “As long as you work hard,” they should tell him, “it is OK with us whether you score high or low.”

Schools and colleges should evolve an effective strategy to prevent students succumbing to academic pressure: As soon as a new batch is admitted they must divide them into batches and allot each to a lecturer/teacher (preferably trained in counseling) who would be their guide/preceptor.  The students must be informed that they are free to consult their preceptor at any time they wish, for any academic or even non-academic problem that is bothering them.

They should make students aware of the telephone number, email ID and postal address of organisations that provide 24 hours telephonic helpline services or stress countering counseling through email or post. They should get psychiatric experts to explain to the students how to control stress generated by  academic pressure.
Demonstration of yogic relaxation techniques too can be arranged for their benefit.

Try the 'Spotlight' solution

Student suicides mostly take place because of ignorance.  In India students, parents and mentors are not adequately trained in the management of emotions. 
Prevention: Parents, students and mentors must be educated about the proper handling of emotions. Special lectures must be held at least twice a year emphasising the problem. Every child in the school must be taught about the “Spotlight” for impulse control which has six steps.
Red Light - Stop, calm down, and think before you act.
Yellow light - Say the problem and how you feel; Set a positive goal; Think of lots of solutions; Think ahead of the consequences.
Green light - Go ahead and try the best plan.

Every class must be provided with a Drop Box where any distressed child can drop a note about his/her problem, anonymously.  These must be discussed in all the classes openly without using any names. This will help the child with the problem get an answer.  If needed a counselor must also address the problem.

A good remedy would be to establish guidance and counselling centre in each and every school and college. This centre must be looked after by a competent guidance counsellor. Teachers in schools and colleges should treat all students with affection and encourage them always. No student should be labelled as bright, dull, useless, etc.

Source : The Career Guide
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