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A child's mental health and studying for examinations


A child's mental health and studying for examinations


The mental health of a child refers to the child’s ability to love, work, play, function and have peace of mind. It refers to the ability of the child to be happy, strong, develop and benefit from his/her environment, which includes the classroom, in problem-solving. It  also refers to the affective domain of learning which enables or forestalls the operation of the cognitive domain and determines to what extent a child is able to make meaning of the learning activity. Examination, which is an instrument of evaluation by which we can place value and quantitative judgements on learner’s progress in making sense of the learning activities, has been a cause of academic stress for learners- most especially the adolescents, in the diaspora.


The University of Leicester (2009) gave the definition of “stress” as the body’s natural responses to something   According to Lee and Larson, 2000; academic stress refers to student’s interactions between environmental stressors, the student’s cognitive appraisal of and coping with the academic-related stressors, and psychological or physiological response to the stressors. From the above definition, we can rightly say that academic stress occurs as a result of some factors which include: the cause of the stress, the student’s awareness of the cause of stress he or she feels, the way and manner the child handles the cause of the academic stress, the response to the stress in terms of psychology and health of the child. Indeed, academic stress is a pervasive problem across countries, cultures, ethnic groups and must be viewed in its context. (Wong, Wong and Scott 2006).


The purpose for which a child determines to pursue academic success varies from person to person. It could be for prestige, to carry on the family’s pride, as a result of parental expectation or to pursue higher education. As harmless all these sound, they could lead to stress on a child. The stress is usually focused on testing the child’s memory or rote learning without taking note of individual differences in learning. Stress is a function of the demands placed on us and our ability or inability to meet them.  These demands are often extrinsic, coming from sources such as parents, siblings, peer groups, teachers and the school at large. As the home is the primary agent of socialization, it can assert a great amount of pressure on children. However, it is not the case that other sources do not contribute to the anxiety a child faces as a result of stress. Stress also could come from intrinsic factors, such as disequilibrium between what we ought to do and what we are actually doing.


Truth to tell: a mild level of stress is beneficial as it boosts productivity, motivates, energizes, and propels students to prepare adequately for an exam; to finish up an assignment on time in order to beat the deadline, which in the long run contributes to high academic performances as learners are driven to give their best to the project for excellence. However, if the stress is too intense, it has consequences for mental health (Lee& Larson, 2000; Verma &Gupta, 1990). This mental stress is prevalent among college students who commit suicide owing to frustration resulting from not meeting their expectations and those imposed on them. The Guardian gave a report on the study by the IPRR thinktank showing the increasing scale of mental health crisis at UK universities. It showed that a number of students who disclosed a mental health problem in the first year skyrocketed fivefold to reach 15,395 in a decade. The report also showed the increasing demand on counselling, “through a survey of 58 UK higher education providers, it found 94% had experienced an increase in demand for counselling and wellbeing service.”



Stress is the rapid production of hormones, including adrenaline and it is usually triggered among students mostly during the few weeks to the start of exams and does not go until mostly the end of exams (University of Leicester, 2009). A survey on school leaders showed that eight out of 10 primary school leaders (82%) who took part in the survey, reported an increase in mental health issues among primary school children around the time of the exams. A case was reported of a child who lost all eyelashes due to stress and many had to be comforted after found sobbing during their exams, according to teachers who participated in the research (The Guardian, 2017). According to Kumari & Jain, (2014), the signs of stress before and during examination include the following:


  1. Irregular sleep
  2. Feeling of tiredness
  3. Feeling of isolation
  4. Sadness
  5. Feeling of aches all over
  6. Suffering from stomach upset
  7. Feeling of restlessness or leading to a condition when you are unable to recall whatever you studied
  8. Panicking upon coming across examination questions
  9. Going blank during the examination.



In managing or preventing stress for children, there are various roles to be played by the home, the child and the school. These roles shall be discussed below.

  1. THE CHILD: A child who understands himself or herself to get anxious whenever exams draw close should ensure to start reading and getting familiar with study materials before the examination date is even known. People differ. Some students work best under pressure, although this is not advisable for any student at all because some topics or even subjects or courses could prove quite a challenge and in order to prevent frustration and depression with grades and results, the child should ensure to always give time to study. Assignments are helpful ways to get familiar with a course. Here are tips that could help students in examination preparation:


    1. Eat properly. Balanced diet shouldn’t be joked with and meals, drinks, and fruits that enhance the brain (call them brain boosters) such as potatoes, pasta, fresh vegetables, milk, bananas, are students’ best friends during exams. Also, 3-squared meal should be taken by students. Avoid skipping meals because of study as studying itself tasks the brain and requires eating to supplement for lost energy. Also, for easy assimilation, never skip meals. Somethings as well should be avoided such as caffeine which is a major cause of anxiety, distortion of thoughts and preventer of sleep.
    2. Take adequate rest. The saying that “nature cannot be cheated” is really true here. Trying to cheat nature may result in slow assimilation rate, tension and anxiety. It can even cause interference in the retention process leading to forgetting. The Student Learning Development, University of Leicester suggests students should ensure to have at least a hour an half break from revision before going to bed. This break should be used in doing something relaxing such as listening to music, chatting, gisting with friends and basically, just having fun.
    3. Engage in regular exercises. This is beneficial in keeping the body healthy and helps in burning out the hormones and nervous energy produced when stressed. It helps calm the nerves when tensed. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous sport, just something that keeps the body moving would suffice. Dancing, swimming, cycling and walking are light exercises which are of great benefits to the body.
    4. Balance reading with fun. Stress could be greatly managed when you take a break to have fun. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This helps you feel reinvigorated when it is time to read. Also, the feeling of isolation which accompanies stress can be eliminated when you do. So if what you enjoy doing for fun is engaging in sporting activities or debating, do it, the break itself is therapeutic.
    5. Develop a good study habit. Developing a good study habit is key to managing exam stress. It builds confidence and preparedness for examinations and helps students feel happy. Doing assignments as at when due are useful for assisting students to study right. When students study for examinations under stressed and anxious conditions, it could lead to the inability to remember studied materials during the examination which could then cause frustration. The Guardian gave a report of the survey carried out by the teenage mental health charity 1 in March


  2. THE PARENTS: The parents are also useful in helping a child manage stress. Much of most of the pressure students feel come from their parents. They should rather assist the child in self-discovery and working out what works for him/her. Parents should be able to assist students in calming their nerves and motivating them for greatness. Also, they should be able to help them study. Making them run errands during exam period can increase their feeling of tension, so it should be minimized to the barest minimum. Also, their feeding and exercise should be motivated. The parents need to complement the efforts of the school in helping students manage stress.
  3. THE SCHOOL: The stress is usually focused on testing the child’s memory or rote learning grading them based on one final examination determines their grade for the whole teaching-learning program. Continuous assessment is the only true form of assessments and it should be encouraged in order to reduce the academic burden on students. Also, individual differences should be recognized and appreciated in the school (Riding & Rayner, 1998). A pragmatic approach given by  Ozmon and Craver, 1976, “to seek out the processes and do the things which work best to help us achieve desirable ends” tell us that schools need to work out what works best for students. The school should support students by giving them the freedom to learn at their own pace rather than assume and impose examinations on them causing their mental health to fail and making them have the feeling of being failures. There are differences in cognition and at such; these differences should matter in the school’s program and classroom activity.



  1. Kumari A., & Jain J. (2014). Examination stress and anxiety: A study of college students. Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies. 33-40.
  2. Lee, M., & Larson, R. (2000). The Korean “examination hell”: Long hours of studying, distress, and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29.
  3. Ozmon, H., & Craver S. (1976). Philosophical foundations of education.(pp 70) Ohio: Charles Merrill.
  4. Riding R. J., & Rayner, S. (1998). Cognitive style and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning behavior (pp. 6-10). London: David Fulton.
  5. The Guardian. (2017). Sats Primary school children suffering stress exam time. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/may/01/sats-primary-school-children-suffering-stress-exam-time
  6. The Guardian. (2017). Suicide record level: students UK universities study.  https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/sep/02/suicide-record-level-students-uk-universities-study
  7. The University of Leicester. (2009). Exam Stress. (pp 1-6). Student Learning Development, University of Leicester.  www.mind.org.uk/ (accessed on 03/03/2018).
  8. Wong, P. T. P., Wong, L. C. J., & Scott, C. (2006). Beyond stress and coping: The positive psychology of transformation. Handbook of Multicultural perspectives on stress and coping (pp. 1-29). New York, NY: Springer.