16
Apr

Test Anxiety Strategies

Are There Test Anxiety Strategies That Can Help?

test anxiety strategies, relaxation techniques, test anxiety, relaxation, guided meditation, affirmations

Test Anxiety Strategies - Photo by Tim Gouw

Yes!  There are many test anxiety strategies on how to deal with test anxiety.  First, I'm going to review the causes, the symptoms,  and who gets it before I discuss what test anxiety strategies to use for managing test anxiety.

 

What is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a feeling someone gets before or during test taking.  It is a type of performance anxiety, that occurs when someone is typically concerned about getting a good outcome.  The result is physical and psychological symptoms that occur before or during tests.  Test anxiety can negatively affect learning and performance.  The good news is there are test anxiety strategies on how to deal with it.  

 

What Causes Test Anxiety?

It is caused by fear of failure, poor test preparation and/or problematic test taking history.  There is pressure to perform at your best level.  This can motivate the test taker.  However, it may also create fear of failure.  Good test preparation is important for a good test result.  It is also important to prevent test anxiety.  A calm test taker tends to know they've studied to the best of their ability.  They also tend to have studied over time, and not in just a few days or at the last-minute.  If the test taker has had a history of negative experiences with test or poor grades on test, this can also cause anxiety on future tests.

 

What Are Symptoms of Test Anxiety?

Symptoms are physical, emotional, and/or behavioral.  They range from mild or very intense. 

 

The physical symptoms may include: headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rate, fast breathing rate, feeling like you can't breathe.  If the anxiety is severe enough, a panic attack may occur.  When someone is having a  panic attack, it is generally very debilitating.  A panic attack can make a person feel paralyzed internally or externally, like they can't move, can't talk, & they may feel like they're having a heart attack.

 

The emotional symptoms may include crying, feeling fear, feeling sadness, and helpless.

 

The behavioral symptoms may include negative self talk, inability to think clearly, and inability to function.

 

Who Gets Test Taking Anxiety?

  • Worriers - If your child has a tendency to worry, he/she is more likely to suffer from test anxiety. Even if your child is prepared, your child's worrying could cause test taking anxiety.
  • Perfectionists - If your child aims for self perfection, then he/she is more likely to suffer from test anxiety.  Even if your child does wll in school, the very thought of getting questions wrong, or getting less than an A, leads the perfectionist to have test taking anxiety.
  • Unprepared People - If your child has not learned the subject matter, not practiced with classwork/homework, and/or studied the material, then he/she is more likely to suffer from test anxiety.

 

How To Manage or Prevent Test Anxiety ?

There are many ways to help your child manage, prevent, and/or minimize test anxiety.  

 

    Talk About It

  • Ask your child what's making your child feel nervous.
    • Talking about their feelings make children have less anxiety.  Stay calm too as this helps your child stay calm as well
  • Accept mistakes
    • This can be a part of you child's life lessons.  Teaching your child to handle things when the outcome is not what they expected will help them in life, not just in test taking.
  • Boost your child's confidence.
    • Tell them how wonderful they are.  Ask them to give themselves compliments.  What do they like about themselves? About their great brains?
  • Always offer support.
    • Remind your child that you are always there.  Sometimes, they don't want a solution.  Sometimes being a listener is all he/she needs.

 

    Review Studying Habits & Test Prep

  • Have your child practice on sample tests.
    • Having experience with what the test will feel like will prevent anxiety.
  • Focus on test preparation.
    • Establish a routine for studying and preparing for the upcoming test is very helpful.  Studying a little bit at a time, over a set time period.  It is usually better than craming it in the day before the test.  It also also for better retention of the facts.  
  • Learn your child's best study habits.
    • When does he/she study best?  Is it morning, afternoon, or night?  
    • Does he/she need breaks? 
    • Could hunger be slowing his/her learning/studying? Consider snack breaks in between studying.
    • Does he/she need to do something physical or move around in between studying.
  • Review test taking strategies.
    • Teach your child what to do if they are stuck on a test question.  If they can't answer one, then teach them to mark the question and move on.  They can get back to it later.  
  • Help your child feel their best the day of an exam 
  • Review all methods and test after the test is complete.
    • What were your child's strengths on the test?  Where are their weaknesses?  How could he/she have improved test prep?  What did he/she do that was just right?  What can he/she do again the next time?  Or do differently?  Ask them to evaluate this with you.

    Sleep & Screen Time

  • Find your child's best number of sleep hours.
    • Does your child need eight (8) hours a night?  Ten (10)?  Twelve (12)? Try to make sure they get their best sleep before tests.
  • Monitor your child's screen time.
    • If your child has too much screen time, especially at night, or the days or week before an important test can do more harm than good.

    Relaxation, Guided Meditation & Affirmations

  • Practice relaxation techniques.
    • Deep breathing 
    • Taking a bath
    • Listening to relaxing music
    • Create art.  Drawing and/or coloring is fun and relaxing.
    • Play a board game that's fun with the family the day before the exam.
    • Watch a funny movie with your child.  Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.
  • Use Guided Meditation.
    • I recommend and use, I Am Peace, by Susan Verde.  This is a wonderful book.  It is geared for children.  I think it's a great book for any age.  The last page has a Guided Meditation.  I've read this out loud to my son while he is lying down with his eyes closed.  I must say that both he and I are relaxed at the end, every time.
    • The Balloon
    • Follow the Leader
  • Use Affirmations
26
Mar

Gun Violence in America

Gun Violence in America & March for Our Lives

America had a truly historical moment on Saturday, March 24, 2018.  The March For Our Lives was led by the student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.  There were 800,000 teens and adults who attended the March in Washington, DC.  Many more attended in cities across the U.S. to demand change in gun laws and talk about gun violence in America.

Gun Violence in America, March for Our Lives

Gun Violence in America

A March led by our minors is amazing.  Even more amazing is that they included all others affected by gun violence in America, including domestic gun violence victims, police gun violence victims, and more.  This was not just a march to stop school shootings and school violence.  They made a statement that "Enough is Enough". 

Articulate Teens

They were also incredibly articulate.  In an era when so many think children are just children, it was wonderful to see them show the world that our American children can stand up for themselves, provide valuable statistics to support their positions, and be able to address our Congressional leaders with words and action.  They are stating that when they are eligible to vote, that they will vote based on this sole cause.  Many don't believe they will follow through on their actions.  However, many don't realize that once your voice has been heard, you are a force to be reckoned with always.

 

Students Speak Up

Several students stood out.  Emma Gonzalez spoke and stood in silence for about 6.5 minutes to honor to victims of the Marjory Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018.  This was less than the duration of the school's shooting.  It was symbolic of the time that students and teachers died, were injured, and were hiding in fear.  The silence was deafening and powerful.  

Samantha Fuentes, another Parkland school shooting survivor with gun wounds on both legs and shrapnel on her face stood up for herself and her friend, Nicholas Dworet, who died and would've turned 18 years old on the day of the march.  Overcome with emotion, she vomited behind the podium and persevered with her speech and led the crowd in a Happy Birthday song to her beloved dead friend.  She was courageous and empowered.  David Hogg, another survivor stated, "The people in power are shaking."  The most popular chant at the march was "Vote Them Out." 

 

Young Children Speak Too

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s granddaughter, 9-year-old, Yolanda Renee King, spoke as well, stating, she dreams of "a gun-free world, period." And 11 year old, Naomi Wadler, stood for the disproportionate number of black females killed by guns.  She said, "For far too long, these names ... have been just numbers. I'm here to say 'never again' for those girls, too." There are many more amazing children that made their voices heard.  Undoubtedly they are coping with tragedy in many ways.  This is their chance to cope and have an active role in shaping and owning their future.

 

Gun Law Changes the Students Want

The students have detailed explanations in their "Manifesto to Fix America's Gun Laws," as listed in their words, in their guest editorial in the Guardian.  These are the  nine (9) gun law changes they request, as written by the editorial staff students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas newspaper, the Eagle Eye

  1. Ban on semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds
  2. Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons (e.g. bump stocks)
  3. Establish a database for gun sales and universal background checks
  4. Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement
  5. Close the gun show loophole and loophole for second-hand gun sales
  6. Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform
  7. Raise the firearm purchase age to 21
  8. Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals
  9. Increase funding for school security

 

Democracy at Work

This march shows how a democracy works.  It shows that everyone can use their voice.  It has empowered many of our youth for the future.  The future is in our children.  Wait and watch because gun violence is only the beginning for these children, these future lawmakers, these activists; their future has so much more ahead!

 

3
Nov

Electronics and Sleep Problems

electronics-before-bed-sleep-problems-in-childrenChildren develop sleep problems when they use portable media devices, such as tablets or smartphones, before bed.  They have more difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, are more sleepy during the daytime, and are twice more likely to sleep less than children without access to their devices before bedtime.  A JAMA Pediatrics review (reut.rs/2fkjL1j) of 20 studies that involved children using these portable media devices. The review excluded their use of PCs and TVs before bed.  It included over 125,000 children between the ages of 6 and 19 years old.
 
 Even more interesting, is the fact that sleep problems are also more likely in children who had their portable media device near them at bedtime, even if they didn’t use it before bedtime.  If they receive texts or use social media, then they are more likely to check their devices throughout the night.  Before you know it, after checking the texts, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat & other social media, several hours of precious  sleep may have been lost.
 
So many of us are guilty of using out smartphones in the middle of the night.  We’ve commonly woken up, after a deep sleep REM cycle, checked our smartphone, and interrupted our sleep.  A good amount of sleep for most children is 10 hours per night, for teens it lowers to 9 hours per night.  For a child, this has a huge impact on their education the next day as well.  If sleep problems exist, learning difficulties are more likely to occur when they are sleepy during the daytime. 
 
Next time you use your smartphone before bed, think about how it could negatively impact your own sleep.  Poor sleep is linked to many potential negative health consequences, including dementia.
 
Please consider protecting your child’s sleep by making sure they don’t use their smartphones or tablets before bedtime, turn them off or remove them from their bedroom at night.
12
Mar

Common Core Education Changes

Common Core, Flip ClassroomCommon Core has officially hit third grade in my son's school.  This year has been a year of many education system changes.  Aside from all the changes Common Core mandates (www.corestandards.org), he is also using Canvas, an online learning management system, and we are using Remind (www.remind.com).  As a result, his learning life has changed.  
 
Common Core means more time on the internet, more time on math, and more communication with the teacher.  This is an excellent advantage of this new curriculum.  Communication between teacher and parent helps the students do their best work.  We also receive reminders via an app, Remind.  I’ve actually become reliant on it.  As a result, when there have been times that a reminder wasn't given, it felt as if something went terribly wrong.
 
My son definitely needs a computer now.  The school uses “a flip classroom”, which essentially reverses the learning model.  The lesson is at home on the computer.  The review at school the next day solidifies the lesson through exercises, projects, explanations, and discussions.  Students view the next day’s math lesson the previous night on the internet.  The math lesson is a YouTube video prerecorded by one of the third grade teachers.  After each class, there is a small quiz available on the Canvas website.  The results of the quiz informs the teacher which students need more help with the next day’s lesson.  It helps me as well to know what lessons my son needs help with day by day.  Why is this so helpful?  With so many required learning strategies, there simply isn’t enough time in the classroom to learn them all expertly.  Hence, teaching, reviewing, and learning continue at home, more so than it did pre Common Core.
 
The Canvas website has also been a huge change.  Canvas is all-encompassing.  It has links to every math lesson from the beginning of the year.  It has science lessons, writing assignments, homework assignments, and even encourages students to offer positive feedback to fellow classmates on their weekly writing assignments.  Canvas  also allows students to send messages to each other's inbox.  It’s wonderful that this is all available in one place.
 
Some features of Common Core are very good.  Math can be broken down into many strategies.  These are strategies that I learned on my own over the years.  It’s nice to know that my son is learning them earlier.  However, simple math is more complicated because there are so many new strategies to learn.  Since there isn’t enough time to learn them all in the classroom, parents need to be more involved.
 
The most important change this year has been the excellent communication between his school and us third grade parents.  A special meeting explained Common Core to us.  The third grade teachers work as a team to maximize children's success with Common Core.  His teacher is amazing.  We communicate in person and via email on how to make the most of his strengths through this growth period filled with so many changes.  
 
My son has begun his journey with computer education, online lessons as "flip classrooms”, and intranet social communications between classmates.  I feel like a dog learning new tricks, some of which I like a lot, and others, not so much.  Either way, this old dog is learning the new tricks.  The reality is that education changes are just one aspect of his life that is changing.   At the end of the day, one thing is never going to change; I am a mom who is always there for my child.  I will always support and encourage him to be and do his very best!
5
Aug

First Day of School

school, home, family, childrenThis is a Flashback post!  Somehow, I never published it, but seeing as school starts this month, it's quite appropriate.  Not to mention it's filled with memories for me.  This still applies to everyone's first day at school.   Enjoy!
 
Our son just started Kindergarten. It was really exciting! I didn’t cry, but was amazed by the flashbacks of when I was little girl in school. I loved to learn. It was great to be with other kids. Kindergarten was filled with playtime.
 
Kindergarten sure isn’t playtime anymore. And everyone doesn’t have the same experience anymore either. Previously, regulated daycares & pre-K classes didn’t exist. As for my son, he has been in daycare since he was 3 months old. You’d think he’d be ready. But it’s just as hard for him as the other kids who have stay at home mommies. He had to say goodbye to his old routine, his old friends, his old teachers, basically to the life he knew for over 5 years. Now, playtime is over; it’s learning time with a little bit of playtime. After school, there’s the bus ride to daycare too. He has a long day. That’s hard on anybody.
 
Did I mention it’s hard on us too? No one likes change. And this was a lot of change. This house wakes up earlier. He has to eat breakfast within a certain timeframe. Lunch bags need to be prepared. How is a 5 year old going to carry a backpack, a lunch bag & a snack bag? How is he going to put it all up, repack stuff, coordinate all those little things? I don’t know; but it’s been done by others for years. It’s just my turn this time.
 
Technology has changed as well in schools. My son’s teacher has his homework schedule on her blog which is very convenient. She also offers communication via email. Remember when it used to only be notes and/or phone calls? Even the PTA is modernized. The PTA has its own website with many helpful links. They even have a Facebook page. If we want to know what the PTA school functions are, we may refer to the website and Facebook. For example, Family Bingo Night was run by the PTA with details online. Relying on technology, a lot can be accomplished. I must say, I’m amazed that this school is using technology as a part of communication, not a replacement for it. It’s a public school that has family at its heart.
 
Despite all the changes, there is one thing that doesn’t change … the human experience. Letting go isn’t easy. Trusting others to teach your kids & care for them isn’t easy either.
 
Yet, somehow, we are surviving. He’s starting to make friends, but it’s not as easy as in daycare. And he feels it. Positive affirmations and pep talks are given. Reviewing the day, homework, and coaching are done. Clearly, our roles have expanded. I must admit I’m feeling more tired than before. Great news is that he is excited. In the end, that’s all that matters.
So, this Pediatrician, this Mommy, is going through growing pains along with my patients’ moms. It’s nice to bond with families at this special time in our children’s lives. It’s nice to share in the difficult times and the joyous ones as well. After all, being a parent is the toughest and most rewarding job of all.
 
Here's a helpful resource.  Being prepared for your child's first day of school with this checklist should help to minimize your stress (http://bit.ly/1xGZO8E).
18
Dec

Sandy Hook School Shooting Crisis

children, schoolThe tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, has affected us all. 

My first grader returned to school Monday.  It was a hard day for us, as it was for many parents.  Over the past weekend, Facebook had many, many parents asking each other if other people's young children knew about what happened.  Also, parents wanted to know how and what to tell their children about this national disaster.

In general, young children do not need many details. In fact, it is important to keep it simple. For example, you can say, "A bad thing happened at a school far away/nearby. A man hurt/killed some people/teachers/kids there. Some people died there. This bad thing rarely happens. Everyone is making sure that every school is super safe. Everyone is doing their best and working together to make sure that this never happens again."

Keep in mind the age of your child, their true nature (quiet vs. talkative), their natural coping style (internalization vs. outspoken).  This is especially important as each child is different.  Whereas older children may want a long discussion on this topic, small children, might only want a little bit.  Be prepared that they will likely return to the conversation at a later time.

Most important, be truthful. Children can usually tell if you are avoiding the truth.  They can also sense when something is bothering you.  They may not be able to verbalize it, but they can definitely feel it.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. Know what you can handle at any given time, on any given day.
Understand that you and your child may grieve or ask questions differently. You may not be able to have this discussion when your child wants to do so.  If that's the case, you can keep it brief.  Let them know that everyone is keeping them as safe as can be. Let them know how much you love them. Explain to them when it is a better time for you to talk about it, if you can. Remember that it's okay to have many feelings, such as anger, sadness, confusion, guilt, and more. Children may not know this. In general, it is good to remind them that it's okay to feel the way they do.

Suffice it to say, there are many excellent resources that can help you have this type of discussion with your children. My goal here is to give you some resources that you can turn to, if needed.
If you would like to learn more about helping your child cope with death in general, in the aftermath of a disaster, and in the aftermath of school shootings, I've provided several links that are truly helpful.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following articles:
"Helping Children Cope With Death", http://bit.ly/2GdncZz
"Talking to Children About Disasters", http://bit.ly/UDxXRV

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following audio:
"AAP Offers Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings", http://bit.ly/1zmUARo

The National Association of School Psychologists has an excellent article on helping children cope when there is a national tragedy, entitled,  "National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope", http://bit.ly/12khEQ4

National Center for Crisis and Bereavement has an article entitled, "Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff" (http://bit.ly/1k2wUaX).

My prayers and thoughts are with all who have been affected by this tragedy in Sandy Hook. There are no words that truly convey all of the emotions I have at this moment.  Never did I envision such a tragedy. This crisis at Sandy Hook has reminded me to be grateful for everything in my life. Those brave children and teachers have reminded me how much love there really is in the world. The life they lived and the love they shared reminds me to live and love. May God bless the memories of the angels of Sandy Hook, keeping them on our hearts forever.

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