Archives for posts with tag: Mental Health

Anxiety and exam nerves seem to be a part of children’s lives in ways that forty or fifty years ago were more or less unheard of. Exam nerves can come up for a weekly spelling test, but now with teacher performance being based more and more on pupil performance, children are feeling anxious and nervous about exam performance.

How can you help reduce exam nerves and text anxiety? Here are some quick tips to help children with fears such as exam nerves

=Let your child know that it’s okay to be imperfect

It is rare for one particular test to have lifelong meaning and let’s be honest, perfection is never possible to achieve all the time. We want our children to do their best and feel pride in what they do, and that’s even when they don’t get the grades you expect. Remember that exam nerves will be bigger, and self esteem lower, if, when your child achieves 95% or an A-, and your response is, “why didn’t you get 100% or an A+?” Children soon learn that what they have done is not good enough. Children need to feel good about what they have done rather than feel depressed and guilty about what they didn’t manage to do. Children always want to please their parents and they look to you for praise and positive reinforcement. This means that your questions about why they didn’t do better may be taken as criticism rather than a form of constructive questioning, despite your good intentions. Remember, kids need to be kids and grades can sometimes take a backseat when mental health is at stake.

=Focus on the positives

When your child complains that they can’t do anything or that they failed at something, say something empathetic. Then ask them about the positives. Could they answer any questions? Find something to be proud of or at least don’t get caught in a spiral of negative thinking. Let’s not go to the negative and let’s keep the glass half full rather than half empty. If your child has strong exam nerves, you might together consider choosing a more realistic goal to aim for rather than getting 100%. You might aim for one section of the material to be examined, or, after consulting with the teacher, together aim for a more realistic percentage.

=Give your child real relaxation time

Watching television is not very relaxing and nor are computers. In fact research shows that computers, laptops and tablet screens stimulate you. Relaxation is about relaxing your mind, body and muscles. This can be by gentle exercise, for some children team sports, perhaps a walk, meditation or more meditative practices such as Chi qong, yoga or Ti chi. Children often also find creative activities involving art, dance, writing or reading also to be great for calm and relaxation. What happened to playing board games? Also being with friends is often great for turning off from the stress of school (and home). You can also practice relaxation techniques with your child. This can include visualising walking in countryside or a beach or calming breathing techniques. I run a fun relaxation and de-stress meditation programme for children, in London. So please get in touch if you would like more details.

=Model good behaviour

There is no use preaching to your child to not be so nervous when you talk (out of earshot as well) about your high expectations or about how stressed you are about things. Learn to have a more relaxed attitude yourself and your child will learn that this is how you react to fears and anxiety. If you have exam nerves about a school test, then so will your child. Children feel the moods and emotions circulating in the atmosphere at home. Modelling good behaviour also means that you show your children that you take care of your health and wellbeing as well. If your child sees that you prioritise ‘me time’ and that you sit to eat good food, exercise, and take time to relax, then this will send positive messages about self care to them as well. Exam nerves decrease if you, the parent, are not stressful to be around.

=Reward open communication and courage

If your child shares with you, reward that. If your child faces his or her fears reward that with something fun and tangible. This is not a bribe but positive reinforcement. If it is appropriate, perhaps mention that you, your partner or someone your child respects, will come along to give moral support and perhaps then mention something fun that you will all do afterwards. Sometimes just suggesting this shows enough belief in your child’s abilities that they feel enough courage to go for it alone. Tell them that you believe they can do it and give evidence and a smile as well. Remember that every time your child shows courage by doing something new, that will add units of confidence as well. Courage can sometimes come from seeing and hearing that you, their parent, believe in their ability to do something. Give positive encouragement. Exam nerves can be more easily overcome when your child feels you are on his or her side.

=Encourage your child to face his or her fears and speak about how they feel

We all want to avoid tests and unpleasant situations. I’m sure that like me, when at school, you occasionally feigned illness to avoid going to school when you had a test or a coursework deadline. Yet after paracetamol and some daytime television you were magically fully recovered the next day!

If your child seems worried or scared, do your best to avoid saying things like, “You’re fine”, or “Don’t be silly”. This will help you push the issue aside but it won’t help your child. In effect you are actually telling your child that their experience, in particular the fears he or she are feeling, are ‘silly’, invalid or out of place. Your child will then feel that you are not really acknowledging and listening to them or understand what they are going through. Don’t then be surprised when, after a few years, they stop sharing their feelings with you! If they are anxious, fearful or have, for example, exam nerves or test anxiety, simply ask, “What (about the test) are you worried about?”

Have a discussion about what your child is worried about. Simply talking about how they feel will reduce your child’s exam nerves or test anxiety or whatever fears they have. Talking directly about and facing fears will show your child that the situation is not as horrific as they thought.

=Stay calm, help is at hand

Speak with your child’s teachers and also whether your child is gifted, in need of special help or Joe average, the school’s special educational needs department (SENCO) may have resources or advice for you. Speak to other parents as well. Your GP will also have advice on how to de-stress. I also help children with anxiety, exam nerves and stress at home or at school.

www.jasondemant.com

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Does your child have anxiety?

Do you suspect that your child is unhappy or feeling anxious or stressed? Here are some quick tips to help you investigate what is going on.

Anxiety is of course often a scary word. Anxiety is normally something we associate with adults going through a major crisis such as a divorce or redundancy. However, children and teens also feel anxious.  Children feel anxious since, though it may technically be your divorce or stressful episode, they are going through it as well. You may not see this directly but notice changes such as bed wetting, your child acting in a moody way, being withdrawn or quiet or perhaps finding it hard to work or concentrate at school.

Some children are of course open about how they feel. They will tell you that they feel anxious, or at least that they are very upset. However many children, when  anxious, may bottle it up and remain silent. For some children the anxiety will only be noticeable by his or her insomnia, poor behaviour, moodiness or lower marks at school.

Here are some quick tips to help a child who may be anxious or suffering from anxiety

= It is perfectly okay to simply ask directly how your child feels. In fact many children may assume that you somehow already know how they feel and so won’t tell you openly unless asked directly. Some children make this assumption and then feel even worse when not asked about what is going on. It can be useful to ask and also, as a side comment, mention that you cannot always guess what they are feeling. Of course say this in a loving way. Remember that asking your child directly shows them that you care about how they feel. Showing a child that you care about how they feel will help your child to feel loved. Feeling loved will help reduce your child’s level of stress and anxiety almost immediately.

= Tell your child that it is okay to have those feelings. You can do this by repeating back what they said, but by changing the sentence structure. For example, if your ten year old says, “I really hate maths, I think the teacher doesn’t like me”. You can repeat back, “I didn’t realise you were having such a hard time in maths, and it not surprising that you don’t want to do your homework if you dislike the teacher”. This may sound obvious, however many parents feel they are intruding or that the child will be okay and just needs to ‘get on with it.’ Taking on such a stoic, ‘stiff upper lip’ approach may well reflect on how the parent him/herself tend to personally deal ( or not deal) with stress or anxiety, rather than the most healthy approach.

=Refrain from giving advice early on in the conversation. It is incredibly important to just simply acknowledge that whatever you child is feeling at the present time is okay and normal to feel. It is okay, no matter what your child is currently feeling. You can do this, by saying something like, “I’m not surprised you are feeling so angry, I think that if someone said that to me, I’d be very upset too.”

=Try your best to refrain from saying upbeat comments, such ‘cheer up’ or go into a whole explanation about how what you are feeling is somehow worse. This is about your child’s feelings, not about yours! The main aim is to empathise with your child and express that you understand what he or she is saying and going through. You need to communicate that whatever they are feeling is completely fine.

=Often children fear that what they are feeling is somehow unimportant, invalid, or not as important as what everyone else (often you) is feeling or going through. The most important response with an anxious child is to say that you understand what they are going through, it’s normal and okay, that they can tell you and that you love them.

=Remember that often all a child really needs is to feel that they have been heard by you. After they have described how they are feeling and you have responded, giving them a big loving hug is always a good move.

=Sit together and try to be as honest and realistic as possible about what your child is worrying about. If, for example, they are worried about a grandparent’s health, discuss with them, in very general terms, what is happening. These conversations involve picking and choosing what to say and also assessing what is appropriate for the child in question. The main idea is for the child to feel understood and they have some idea about what is happening. Deciding how much to tell your child is always a complicated decision. If you need to come up with a plan of action, do so in a way in which your child feels a part of the process and that their concerns are taken into account as well.

Good luck 🙂

http://www.jasondemant.com