ASK THE EXPERT - October 2019

Note: Dear parents, Thank you for sending in your queries. Some of the queries put up by you were not related to children's emotional and behavioural problems but about admissions and results. Please note that this page does not address such questions. Some of you have also sent incomplete queries, with one or two word sentences, such as ‘rude behaviour', ‘happiness' and ‘aggression', which are difficult to respond to, as there is no explanation or description given about how the problem has started, what you find difficult to manage as a parent etc. The more descriptive the problem is, the better we would be able to respond to it.

Thank you

1. I do best preparation of exams but did not get my expected marks... What's the reason behind it... .

Gender: Female Age: 14 to 18 Category: Exam and Studies related Anxiety

Response: Sorry to hear that you didn't get the expected result despite working hard. A lot of factors can contribute to this outcome. We would like you to analyze these to better understand what could be the reason in your case. Sometimes the students know the correct information but the concept is either not articulated properly or written briefly instead of elaborating it. Sometimes students may experience exam anxiety which can result in them forgetting the information or not articulating it the way they would have normally done when not anxious. To further help you understand your problem areas, we suggest that you speak to your subject teacher about the mistakes that you have made in the exams. We wish you the best of luck for next time.

2. AOA i am a student in class 8 and lately i am having problems with my section head and vice principal. she snubs off the students and does not seem to be concerned by the problems of students. most importantly she holds grudges as once i told my parents about this problem and my parents went to talk about it and now she criticizes me whenever i go to her.

Gender: Female Age: 9 to 13 Category: Other (Student-Teacher Relation)

Response: I am sorry to hear that you have to deal with the unfriendly attitude of the school staff. At times adults fail to realize how their attitude and words can impact children. While they may be communicating a very valid point of view, however, not being heard can make children feel misunderstood. What are some of the common issues that you feel they don't understand and snub you on? Is there any supportive and understanding teacher who can help you communicate these problems to the administration? Are other students' also experiencing similar problems for which you are looking for a resolution? It might help if you all go as a group to discuss these with the supportive teacher who will then be able to guide you better about what could be done. We hope this helps.

3. The study of history is very much hard........ My child did not understand history.

Gender: Female Age: 9 to 13 Category: Lack of Concentration, Attention & Learning

Response: The information provided is insufficient to guide you. We would need to get more specific information about the issues faced in this subject. Talk to the child directly and ask her about the specific learning difficulties and the kind of adult support she would need to deal with the challenges. It might help if you identify whether the issues arise due to lack of conceptual clarity or lack of concentration or both. It may also help if you can observe the child and assess if there is something specific within this subject that she struggles with. You may also want to assess the time at which the child studies History to rule out factors such as tiredness, distractions, etc. that may be affecting the child's learning. Since you are based in Karachi and have a school counselor on board, we will also advise you to speak to her for guidance.

4. Aoa,I have also written to u earlier,I was glad that you responded to my queries,I have recovered,but now there are new problems:1)My concepts are clear,the problem is that i can't cram. 2)As I have told u earlier, I was a shining star,had won medals in every field of life,my English is very very good,I have written English poems and stories,I speak good English,but with teachers,I hesitate! 3)I have first term exams,i am quite motivated,but when teacher hand over me the paper,i do objective part very easily,when it comes with subjective part,I tell myself that this is very easy & I'm gonna do it(which is true)but when i pick up the pen,my hands automatically stop and my mind forgets what i had to write it.I have very difficulty recalling it again! 4)I can't manage my time in examination hall.

Gender: Female Age: 9 to 13 Category: Lack of Concentration, Attention & Learning

Response: Thank you for sharing your concerns. Are there any specific subjects that you have more difficulty remembering concepts of, compared to others? All of us have different learning styles so figuring out how you best learn and are able to recall information, will help you deal with this dilemma. I suggest you list down all the subjects or topics you have difficulty memorizing despite having conceptual clarity. Once you have identified problem areas, see if it helps making code words to remember certain names or dates, or draw word associations or create stories around which you can weave the difficult concepts. I also suggest that once you have identified the issues, talk to some class fellows or teachers about how you can try to memorize.

When you're mentioning lack of confidence to speak English in front of teachers, the nervousness and shyness can be somewhat natural as one hesitates more to make mistakes in front of the teachers. As English is not our first language, it is natural to make mistakes, or/and feel shy if one is not fluent in spoken English. You can stand in front of the mirror and practice looking and talking in English more confidently. Appropriate body language and tone can help us appear more confident too.

For time management in exams, after reading the question paper for the first time, assign each question specific time according to the length and difficulty level. It is always better to carry your own wrist watch to keep track of time during the paper. Keep checking time and try answering the questions according to your assigned time. Practice time management before exams in your daily study routine as well.

Another thing to consider is to assess and manage anxiety that is part of daily life and can become especially pronounced before an exam, meeting new people, a doctor's check-up. Anxiety can make us freeze and not perform despite having all the information . Identify and minimize your unhelpful thoughts that contribute to your anxiety such as ‘I will be a failure, ‘I need to be the best', ‘My parents will be so disappointed in me', ‘I am so dumb' etc . Replace these with helpful thoughts such as ‘ I am going to try my best', ‘I may not know a few things but will work to improve them', ‘I don't have to be perfect in everything'. If it helps write down the helpful thoughts and say these out loud while standing in front of the mirror and looking at herself.

Try to identify physical and other activities that help calm you down and make them part of your daily routine. Anxiety often produces bodily symptoms such as sweating, erratic breathing, fast heartbeat etc. and deep breathing and calming activities reduce these bodily symptoms. Other than that pursuing a pleasurable interest, talking to friends etc. can also help deal with the stress.

5. Assalam o Alaikum ! My son is very intelligent he is in class 3 .he is a shinning star in his class .but he is very irresponsible all copies are always very dirty .he forget copies in school always ..his writing is best but he is not interested in mainten copy work afert many efferts i am tird.please gave any solution .his teacher also tense in class because he is irresponsible he also eat paper or a nail bit .but he is very intelligent and have a extra sharp mind that's reason he is a shinning star.

Gender: Male Age: 6 to 8 Category: Lack of Concentration, Attention & Learning

Response: It is suggested that you speak to his teacher and see how you can both help him through a joint strategy, which is followed both at the school and at home. It is also recommended that you involve the section head of junior school that may have more experience working with children with similar problems and would be able to guide accordingly. While coming up with the strategy, explore if the challenge of completing work is due to lack of understanding of what has to be written or lack of concentration or both. An understanding of this will help you tackle the issue accordingly. Suggest to the teacher to have your son sit in the front row, so the teacher can bring his attention back to the task. At home, make sure that your son does not study in a room with too many distractions such as people talking, television, too many toys around etc. Break his tasks into smaller tasks so that he can understand them better and is also not distracted. Let him know what he can do once he finishes his work, which will help as an incentive. You can also assess if he is getting ample sleep, nutrition and is not disturbed by any family issues and stressors. All these things can also affect children's ability to pay attention. Good luck!

6. My child doesnot give much time and focus to studies.

Gender: Male Age: 14 to 18 Category: Lack of Concentration, Attention & Learning; Adolescent Development Issues

Response: The information provided is insufficient to guide you. We would need to know if the lack of interest in studies is a recent change or if the student has had these problems since the beginning of his studies? Is he unable to understand concepts, not pay attention, both or any other issue with the learning?

It would be important to know if he is facing any challenges in grasping the concepts that are being taught or is stressed about anything at home, school, with friends, etc. At times, both things could contribute towards the lack of interest. If the lack of interest in studies is due to difficulties in a subject, you can work in close coordination with him and his teachers so that he can be best helped to overcome the learning challenges. Encourage him to seek help for subjects he does not understand, help him set a daily study routine, break his work tasks into smaller tasks if he loses concentration on longer tasks and make sure he is getting enough sleep and exercise. However, if other non-academic issues are bothering him, support him in better dealing with and communicating his feelings and thoughts. Please also note that the student is passing through the adolescent age. During this time (roughly starting around ten years and above), many children go through a series of normal emotional, physical and social changes. As a result of these changes there is more interest in peers, less interest in studies, spending time with family and adults, frequent arguments and need to exert their own individuality and identity etc. The adolescent period can be overwhelming for adolescents, especially if they lack correct information about the changes that they are experiencing or/and if they feel that there is no one that they can communicate with. Validate and normalize his feelings and let him know that he can talk to you if there is something bothering him or if he has any questions related to growing up. By communicating openly, you will be giving him an opportunity to discuss and share with you in case he is bothered about something and going through a difficult time.

7. My daughter is in 2nd year and will also be giving 2 papers of 1st year in 2020 for score improvement. She still has difficulty in juggling all the subjects. Please guide how to Motivate her and keep her focused ( have tried talking about it and that helps for very short time) She gives a lot of time to books but doesn't seem to concentrate or later remember the answers. She is not sad or depressed about redoing but knows that may be a better plan is needed.
Desperate Mother

Gender: Female Age: 14 to 18 Category: Lack of Concentration, Attention & Learning

Response: Thank you for sharing your concerns. Was focusing on studies always a challenge for your daughter or has this problem started since she decided to retake the exams? Are there any specific subjects that she has more difficulty in, compared to others? It is better to narrow down the issue, and identify the problem areas.

You also mentioned a lack of motivation. At times multiple factors like the pressure to achieve more marks than before, fear of failure, in addition to parent's approval; do not allow students to concentrate on their studies. Preoccupation with other disturbing life circumstances or stress at home or school can also affect our ability to study. See if this may be contributing to your daughter's situation.

It is important to know that it is also perfectly normal for most children to feel a bit of nervousness and stress related to their studies especially when they have to retake exams. Some of the things that you can help her with are:

•  Make a study plan in advance of the exams, keeping ample time for preparation of subjects that she finds most difficult. Managing and planning the study time will help her cope with stress and avoid the last-minute panic and anxiety experienced by many students.

•  Make sure she is getting enough rest and sleep and are eating a balanced diet. A recent study has shown that people who sleep for 8 hours before taking a Math's test are three times more likely to understand and solve the math's problems as compared to people who stay awake all night.

•  Sometimes a monotonous study routine makes one lose concentration and getting demotivated as well. Encourage her to take short, well-timed breaks in between the study routine, for her own pleasurable interest, talking to friends etc.

•  Help her in setting goals according to the level of difficulty of subjects, and syllabus. Every time she achieves the set goal for the day or week, you can reward her with something that she enjoys doing. Goal setting is an important strategy to boost motivation in students.

. Be available to listen and validate her fears and concerns about the upcoming exams. Sometimes all that a student needs is a listening ear and validation by the parents that they will support their child no matter what the challenges may be.