Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tips to help your child relax before standardized testing

The Smarter Balanced testing for 3rd graders is about to begin this week.  In order to help your child alleviate any stress that they may be feeling I thought it was important to give some tips on how to emotionally prepare your child.

*Remind your child to relax and breathe - they will do their best if they are thinking calmly and clearly.
*Make sure your child has gotten a good nights sleep (10-11 hours of sleep a night is recommended for students aged 7-12 years old).
*Have your child eat a healthy breakfast at the start of their day - protein and low sugar choices will help keep them full until their next meal or snack.
*Encourage your child to take the test seriously and do the best job that they can.  Avoid pressuring them.
*Remind your child to stay focused on the test even when others finish before them.
*Wish your child good luck and remind them how much you believe in them and love them every morning.
*If your child takes medication make sure they get it when they need to.
*Get your child to school on time so they don't feel rushed.  Students perform better when they take the test at the time allotted for their class.
*Remind them that if they are stuck to make their best guess - their first choice is typically correct.
*On testing mornings, maintain a pleasant home environment and avoid unnecessary conflicts. Try to make the morning a pleasant one so you do not add to your child’s stress.
*Remind your child to listen carefully to the instructions from the teacher and if they are unsure or unclear to ask for clarification.
*Have your child read the directions and each question carefully.  The information given in each question will help them understand and correctly answer the questions.  Many questions are missed because of lack of attention to directions.  Make sure to look for words such as "never" and "always".
*Explain to your child the importance of using time wisely so they don't feel overwhelmed and get stuck on particular questions.
*De-brief with your child at the end of the test taking day to see how they felt they did and what you can do to support them the next day.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

How to help your child handle anxiety

Anxiety is a natural protective mechanism that our body uses to ring an alarm in our system to help us survive in dangerous situations.  We often tell our children when they are feeling worried about something to stop worrying and we feel that they should simply be able to do this right?  Well if only it were that simple - but the brain won't allow that to happen.  During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex -- or more logical part of the brain -- gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. So how can you help reduce anxiety for your child?  Below are some ideas to try.

Stop Reassuring Your Child - instead empathize with your child and let them know you understand that they are feeling anxious.

Freeze - pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.

Evaluate - once your child is calm, it's time to figure out possible solutions.

Let Go - let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

Highlight Why Worrying is Good - teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time.

Bring Your Child's Worry to Life - personifying worry or creating a character has many benefits. One of which is helping demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry.

Catch your thoughts - imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like "No one at school likes me."  Collect evidence- next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: "I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday." Negating evidence: "Sherry and I do homework together--she's a friend of mine.")

Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

Allow Them to Worry-  create a daily ritual called "Worry Time" that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing.

Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety - avoidance makes anxiety worse. Kids can learn to manage their worry by breaking it down into manageable chunks.

Remember to never give up.  Anxiety and stress can be a chronic struggle and often the source of a child's anxiety changes over time so it can feel as though you are always putting out fires. With repetition of the anxiety and stress management techniques, your child will learn how to lower his/her anxiety level and how to cope with anxiety-provoking situations. The key is repetition so keep it up!