Every year months from Feb to May are full of tension for parents of school/ college goingchildren."Mom,I have a headache, I can't go for the exam.""Dad,I feel like vomiting, I can't sit for the exam.""Mom,I have a terrible stomach ache, I can't attend this test."These are some of the common excuses that students come up with when they are unableto cope with exam stress.
Exam anxiety disorder affects almost 40 percent of children, including adolescents. Stress levels spike,especially during major exams.Some students become withdrawn, cranky and irritable and even throw tantrums. Food wise- excessive consumption of tea/coffee to stay awake, binge eating like finishing packets of chips/ wafers, eating large amount of ice creams,colas, energy drinks , are quite common. Some students end up falling prey to alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse and excessive use of anti depressants.Studies suggest that what a child eats during this period affects his/ her mood.Increased stress level can make child reach for sugary/fatty food which in turns leads to lethargy. A child’s diet is neglected during exam as they are given their favourite junk food/drink as a bribe to study well which is counter productive to his/her overall wellbeing. Adding to it are various myths which parents fall for. To list a few-
1. Consumecoffee or tea to keep awake- Caffeine in tea/coffee will certainly boost up energylevels, but only temporarily. They whip the body to work harder and cause chronic fatigue when used over a period of time.
2. Add ghee in the food to increase memory- In fact, too much of ghee or fried foodswith make digestion slow and body sluggish. In order , to boost up memory add good omega 3 fatty acids which are present in fish, walnuts, spinach, flax seeds,methi, urad dal, flax oil etc.
3. Adding food supplements to milk will increase exam performance- Most of the supplement contain more sugar, malt and cocoa which just gives sudden surge of energy and then it dips down. In addition, dairy products make one sleepy, making it difficult to study at night. Child should be encouraged to eat complex carbohydrateslike missi roti, dalia, brown rice with veggies, sprouts, oats with veggies which will give sustained energy release.
In order to get best out of your child, adopt following:
1. Nutritious breakfast like upma/poha/oats/eggs is a must. Do not allow to skip meals.
2. Let the child eat smaller portion so that he/she does not feel too full but at the same time has energy/alertness to study.
3. Let the child snack on almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachio, eggs(whole) which boosts brain.
4. Give simple nourishing home cooked food which includes green leafy vegetables and also fresh fruits.
5. Give plenty of liquids like plain water, coconut water, fresh fruit juices(preferably without sugar), kokum water, soups.
6. Avoid giving tea/ coffee to help child stay awake.
7. Avoid eating out as exam is increased stress level and low immunity time for children, so they are highly prone to fall sick.Child can carry veg sandwich or chapatti role (filledwith his favourite veg) to exam hall
8. Have a good night’s sleep. It’s practically useless to study just prior to exam, burning midnight oil. A restful 7 hrs sleep will make the child energetic and concentrate well during exam.
9. Emphasize on light exercise like walking and deep breathing which will bring down the stress levels.
Finally,parents should empathise with children. They should give them enough space and emotional support, instead of hovering over them all the time. Examination is not the time to introduce new foods and inculcate good habits. Balanced diet should be imparted right from the beginning in order to achieve good exam performance.