5 Tips to Reduce ACT and SAT Test Anxiety

Are you preparing to apply to college, but first you need to take the ACT or SAT? Does the thought of taking a major test give you anxiety? If so, you are experiencing test anxiety. It’s normal. Taking the ACT or SAT and going to college is a big step in your life and the unknown can make our thoughts race or even make us physically feel stress in our bodies.

ACT and SAT test anxiety will present before, during, and after the exam. Usually, test anxiety will have you deal with it through avoidance. The hope is that if are not confronting the anxiety, it will go away. Of course, it does not go away. You need to confront the anxiety and prepare on how to deal with the anxiety especially with big tests such as the ACT and SAT. Here are helpful tips to prepare the exams and reduce test anxiety.

1. Be Familiar with the Test

ACT and SAT have their similarities and differences. It is important you learn all you can about the ins and outs of tests. Some examples of the ins and outs are what the format of the test is, what subjects are being covered, how much time do you have to take the test, how is the test being scored, and what some of the questions look like. Try your best not to pay attention to the myths or rumors you may hear from friends about tests because in reality they are not always very accurate. The ACT and SAT websites do a fantastic job at getting you familiar with their tests.

Also, these websites help you to know the testing locations. Usually, a testing location is at your school or a school you are familiar with. You can locate a list of what you need to bring with you on test day and what you cannot bring with you. Even though they work to make the environment conducive to taking a test, there may be little distractions that are out of your control. To help with test anxiety, try to avoid arriving too early or too late. Once in the testing room, choose a seat away from high-traffic areas like doors or aisles to help lesson distractions. Lastly, try to sit away from others you may know. They are great supports, yet sometimes test anxiety can be contagious.

2. Be Prepared

The best way to be prepared is to study. It is essential to make an organized study schedule and stick to it at least a month if not longer before you sit for the exam. This schedule should help review each section of the test, learn key terms and concepts of those sections, and practice answering questions in the format they will show up on the exam. This way you are prepared and know what to expect on test day. There are many helpful resources on the testing websites, tutors which focus on preparing you for these exams or books that focus on studying for the ACT or SAT.

3. Learn Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques should be used before, during, and after the exam. These techniques should not focus on using screens or taking naps, but instead, focus on what you can do at the moment when anxiety arises. While preparing for the exam, start to notice when you are blanking-out, freezing or having difficulty concentrating. When you start feeling the test anxiety taking over, take a couple of long, deep breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Another example could be taking a few seconds during the deep breaths, close your eyes and imagine a peaceful setting or something that brings you joy, such as baby animals or a calm lake. You can also visualize someone you care about cheering you on, telling you “you got this.”

4. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can increase your test anxiety. They can show up while preparing for the exam or during the exam. While you are studying, write down these thoughts then rewrite them or reframe them with positive thoughts and actions. For example: “I always do poorly on the test” to “I’ve got a better study plan for this exam than I have ever had before.” Another example to change: “If I do not pass this test, I am not going to college” to “I am going to get the score I need, but if I don’t, I can retake it.” Writing the positive reframes down and saving the list can help you come back to the thoughts and remind yourself of all the positive things you have going for you.

5. Take Care of Yourself

If you are taking care of your body, it will help feed your mind. The night before the test is not the time to cram or pull an all-nighter studying. It would be more beneficial to do something calming and relaxing. Try to get a good night’s sleep (8-10 hours) and fuel up in the morning with a nutritious breakfast. Dress in layers, so you are prepared if the testing room is too cold or too hot. Also, it may not hurt to pack a water bottle and a snack or two for breaks during the exam.

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Teaching Your Child to Include Others: Halloween Advice

Shutterstock Girl left out 15807379Halloween: Help Your Child Include Others

Halloween: A time for trick-or-treating, group costumes, pictures posted on social media. Inevitably, someone is left out. Below is advice on teaching your child to include others.

We tell our kids all the time, and especially on Halloween- “Don’t leave kids out.  It’s not nice.  How would you feel if kids did this to you?”  It seems innate.  But, what about the kids who, let’s just say, aren’t very likeable?  The kid who eats glue, the kid who teases others, the kid who…I’m just going to say it..learned his bad behaviors from his mother!  Oh yeah, I said it!  I have heard this line from so many parents over the years, “Just stay away from him!”  Is this (more…)

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Your ADHD Child: Tips to Help Your Child Thrive and Behave Better

Help! My child is impulsive, argumentative, and not listening to me!

Many parents feel frustrated and exhausted at the end of each day as they try to manage their child’s behavior and cope with the challenges associated with ADHD. Parents often struggle to implement effective strategies to manage the impulsivity, emotional outbursts, and misbehavior. Not to worry!

Here are five tips to help create a more peaceful home and a thriving child.

1) Implement structure

Many children with ADHD have challenges with executive-functioning skills: organization, planning, and time-management. When you provide daily structure, you teach your child what is expected, stay focused, and thrive in a predictable environment.

  • Establish rules and routines around waking up, mealtime, homework, and bedtime that your child can stick to each day.
  • Small tasks, such as packing your child’s backpack for school or choosing tomorrow’s outfit the night before can offer a great deal of predictability and consistency.

Offering daily structure will allow your child to be more successful every day. This will ultimately build healthy self-esteem.

2) Leave room for flexibility

While the structure is fundamental to success for a child with ADHD, there must also be room for flexibility. Parents must consider how routines and schedules can be adapted to accommodate the needs of your child and family.

Be open to making compromises with your child and don’t sweat the small stuff.

You may expect your child to brush his teeth, put on pajamas, and pick out a bedtime story on his own. Then, as he starts to head to the bathroom to get his toothbrush, he forgets why he was going there! It’s OK, no harm was done!

  • Many kids with ADHD also have difficulty with working memory.
  • We must remember to adjust our expectations, prompt before transitioning to a new tasks or activity, be patient with the learning process, and most importantly: choose your battles.

3) Strive for organization and simplicity in your child’s world.

A child with ADHD often become distracted when there are too many stimuli in their environment or the task is perceived as “too big” or “too hard.”

Many kids with ADHD benefit from the use of visual reminders.

  • Calendars and chore charts can be an effective way to combat disorganization.
  • A large, white board or wall-calendar can be color-coded for after-school activities, homework, chores, birthday parties, etc. and can be useful for the entire family.

Limit distractions, such as messy or cluttered rooms, electronics or other toys that can cause your child to engage in impulsive behaviors and become emotionally dysregulated if the distraction must be removed. The use of timers can be useful to help your improve planning and time-management skills. Break larger tasks or multi-step directions into smaller, simpler instructions. Your child may not be able to keep more than one or two items in their working memory at one time.

4) Promote healthy eating, exercise, and sleeping patterns.

Healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise routines do have an impact on a child’s behavior. Research shows that regular exercise stimulates a child’s brain and can result in improvements in mood, concentration, and attention, therefore decreasing impulsive behaviors.

  • Bedtime routines are especially important to monitor for children with ADHD.
  • Fatigue will often exacerbate misbehavior, including making poor choices and engaging in angry outbursts.
  • Decrease sugar and caffeine intake, monitor screen time, and create a soothing and consistent bedtime routine.

5) Model self-control and healthy coping strategies.

When parents are able to model healthy emotional control and display positive strategies to manage frustration, children are more likely to remain calm and access self-soothing skills in challenging moments on their own. Sometimes parents believe loud, expressive behaviors (such as making demands or shouting) will create a lasting impact, but children are more likely to hear the anger and NOT the message.

If your child is pushing your buttons and is repeatedly misbehaving, take a few calming breaths or demonstrate another coping strategy for them.

You will model the importance of self-control and how to positively cope with challenging emotions.

  • Consider inviting your child to join you on a walk around the block. Other examples would be practicing deep breathing, blowing bubbles or pretending to blow out birthday candles.
  • Challenge your child to engage all five senses for a mindfulness activity. Once they have reached a calm, regulated place, you can ask your child to talk about his or her feelings. It will also help brainstorm a solution to solve the problem together.

All in all, as a parent you are in control. You, your child, and family do not have to surrender to ADHD. Remember to acknowledge the small wins. Catch your child when they are succeeding, anticipate potential triggers, and be clear and consistent with expectations. With these ideas in mind, you are more likely to have a well-adjusted child and happier home.

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Help! My Teen is a Perfectionist!

Is Your Teen a Perfectionist?

  • Is perfectionism and the pressures of daily life controlling your teen?
  • Does your teen have difficulties starting or completing a new task for fear that he or she will fail?
  • Is your teen struggling with schoolwork or participating in their after-school or athletic activities?

For many teenagers in our society, aiming for perfection and the overwhelming fear of failure is an unfortunate reality. Unlike “high-achievers,” many teens will often set lofty goals and assume complete failure if the goal isn’t met with sheer precision and perfection. These teens run the risk of constant disappointment, which can lead to the development of anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and potential family and peer conflict. In order to mitigate the potential effects of perfectionism, consider the following strategies to help your teen find more balance in their daily life:

1) Promote Hard Work Rather Than Perfectionism

Encourage your teenager to consider goals that feel realistic and manageable, while still aiming for a challenge. It can be helpful to have conversations at the start of the new school year with your teen about his or her expectations and goals they have in mind. This can be a great opportunity to help your teen modify or eliminate goals that may be too overwhelming, such as participating three honors classes. Instead, encourage your teen to participate in one advanced class so they are able to dedicate their time to a challenge while also finding time for self-care, social events, and after-school sports and activities.

2) Defeat Negative Patterns of Thinking

Perfectionism is often associated with negative and self-defeating thoughts. These irrational thoughts will only exacerbate your teen’s anxiety and make it more challenging to find small successes and confidence within themselves. Teens will often use “all of nothing” thinking (such as failure or perfection) or engage in “catastrophic thinking” (a small mistake or error on a test will predict an “F” in the class). Encourage your teen to use a basic Cognitive Behavior Therapy technique called cognitive restructuring, where he or she can reframe or challenge the irrational thoughts. Help your teen to replace the irrational thought with a more positive thought or fact that is more grounded in reality. For example, we can change “I failed my science quiz and I’m going to fail the class” to “I didn’t do my best on this quiz, but I have many opportunities to ask my teacher for and the remainder of the semester to work hard.”

 

3) Cope with Stress and Anxiety in Healthy Ways

Foster a safe space for your teen to express their emotions and talk about their stressors. Often times, having an outlet and using healthy emotional expression skills can drastically reduce the pressures and anxiety your teen is experiencing. Encourage your teen to cope in positive and healthy ways, rather than internalizing and shutting down, Avoid negative coping skills such as immersing themselves in screens and electronics or napping to avoid the stress. Validate your teen’s concerns and anxieties while also challenging him or her to cope in healthy ways. This will look different for each teenage but can include playing sports or talking with his or her peers, listening to music, going for a run, journaling, drawing or even downloading a breathing or guided mediation app on their smartphone.

Talk with your teen about how he or she can view mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than total failures. Model positive self-talk and encourage your teen to “aim high” without resorting to perfectionism and self-defeating patterns of thinking in their academic and social worlds.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” – J. K. Rowling

 

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Relaxation Techniques for Stressed Out, Overwhelmed Teens

Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed?

Are you a teenager who feels overwhelmed?  Are you stressed out about the pressures of keeping up with school, friends, sports, responsibilities at home, or your job?   If so, you’re not alone. stressed out overwhelmed teenIt’s normal for you to explore and search for your identity.  You are probably asking yourself, “Who am I?”  You may be at a point in your life where you want to be independent, but still depend on your parents (although you won’t always admit this part!). Oh, and don’t forget hormones!  So basically, there’s a lot going on in your life.

4 Relaxation Techniques to Decrease Stress When You Are Overwhelmed

1.GET ON YOUR PHONE OR IPAD TO REDUCE STRESS

Yes! Did I get your attention? I know your parents are usually telling you to get off your phone or devices. You may not believe it, but your phone actually does more than texting, posting pictures of you doing fun stuff with your friends, and sharing your “story” on social media. There are great apps for relaxation that you can use- and it only takes a couple minutes a day. You can even tell your parents that a professional told you to go on your phone to relax! How cool is that?

2.LISTEN TO MUSIC TO FIND RELAXATION

Music can help distract your mind, help you feel relaxed, and quiet down your thoughts that tend to increase when you feel stressed. Classical music, or any type of soft, slow music can have a calming effect on your brain. Even if you don’t care for the classical style, any kind of music can help you take your mind off of stress and negative thoughts. Listen to music in the shower, bedroom, the car, or while taking a walk (bonus relaxation occurs when listening to music and taking a walk!).  So go ahead, play around with different genres and see what works best for you.  Ya never know, you may develop a love for a new style of music, so have fun with it!

3. BREATHE TO FEEL LESS STRESSED OUT

There are so many different ways to use your breathing as a form of relaxation when you are stressed out or overwhelmed. One way is to inhale through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth while saying something positive. If you use positive self-talk and use positive statements while focused on your breathing, you will benefit from an overall calming effect. Use statements such as “relax” or “I can do this.” Not only does this help with relaxation, but you can also build self-esteem when implementing positive self-talk/statements in your daily routine (again, another two for one!).  Breathing techniques are great because you can practice them wherever you are.  If you are feeling stressed before a test, or before speaking in front of your class, this is a great one to use!

4. LAUGH WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED

Yes, I said laugh! When you are stressed out or overwhelmed, laughing produces endorphins to help you feel more relaxed. Watch a funny t.v. show, YouTube video, or call a friend who will instantly make you laugh.  Not only will your mood shift, but the physical tension in your body from feeling stressed will begin to reduce. Pay attention to how you feel after a good laugh.  Do you feel more relaxed?  Do your muscles feel less tense?  Laughing truly is the best medicine when feeling stressed out!

 

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Homecoming- No Date?

It’s Homecoming Time

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves will be turning soon, football season is underway, and of course, pumpkin spice is back! This all means that Homecoming is just around the corner.  homecoming

Maybe your teen is excited because they already have a date, the dress picked out and they have been practicing the newest dance moves. However, some teens may find this night creeping up a little too fast because they don’t have a date. They may be thinking that everyone else has a date but them. They may be worrying that they will be the only one without plans on that night.

Dateless for Homecoming

No Date? No problem! Here are a few tips to make being dateless a little less stressful.

  • Ask around! Not everyone has a date. Encourage your teen to use their networking skills! Whether they ask friends, friends of friends, or even someone from a different school, there is someone out there that doesn’t have a date and is just waiting to be asked.
  • Encourage them to go with a group of friends! Dates are overrated and purely optional for homecoming. Have your teen grab a group of friends and go to the dance! This can be more fun anyway. They wouldn’t be tied down to any one person; they can mingle with other people at the dance, or just hang out with their friends all night. There is also no pressure to match their dress with their date’s outfit. There is no pressure to dance those awkward slow dances. They can just have fun, dance, and enjoy the night.
  • Help them make some alternate plans! They may not want to ask just anyone and they don’t want to go solo to the dance. Help them make some plans. Take them to a restaurant they have wanted to go to or take a train ride to the city and go window-shopping. Take a drive to look at the changing leaves. Find something that will take their mind off of Homecoming and allow them to have a good story of why they couldn’t make the dance.

Not having a date for Homecoming seems like a disaster to your teen, but it doesn’t have to be. Encourage them to get involved with the school spirit days and the rivalry Friday night football game. Remember, Homecoming isn’t just about the dance!

 

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Secrets to Middle School Success

Middle School Success:

If you could go back to middle school, would you? Most adults wouldn’t! Think about it: challenging peer groups, different teachers and classmates at least 8 times a day, figuring out what each teacher expects from you and how to act around various peers of varying degrees of social status? No wonder middle schoolers sleep until noon on the weekends. It’s exhausting!

Despite all of the overwhelming factors, middle school can also be an exciting time. Not only do middle schoolers learn new independent skills, but they are also given more responsibility. Teachers’ expectations are higher, peer situations are evolving, and school work is escalating. We want to ensure that our kids are prepared to head into middle school with confidence and realistic expectations for the upcoming school year. Here are a few tips to help your child make the transition to middle school a positive and successful experience.

Organization and Executive Functioning Skills

  • Buy an assignment notebook and write down the assignments before leaving  each class (Don’t wait until the end of the day)
  • Use colorful binders that coordinate with notebooks (One for each subject)
  • Find a place in your home for homework each night (Keep things in the same place)
  • Prioritize homework assignments for that night (Don’t skip instructions)
  • Time Management (Make sure you have enough time to do your homework before and after school activities, relaxation time, dinner, and bedtime)
  • Put papers away after finishing them (where they are supposed to go)
  • After completing assignments, put folders and notebooks back in backpack right away (Don’t wait ’til later)

Asking for Help (Self-advocating)

  • Talk with your teacher if you don’t understand something (Teachers are more willing to help you with homework when you ask them questions instead of skipping the assignment)
  • Use I-statements when asking questions (e.g. I feel confused because I don’t understand the homework instead of- You didn’t explain it).
  • If you are worried about asking a teacher in person, write a note or email your question or concern to your teacher

Peer Interactions (How to Make and Keep Friends)

  • Keep inviting peers to engage in activities (not excluding others)
  • Showing positivity towards others
  • Respecting everyone’s personal space and understanding boundaries
  • Listening to what that person is saying without being distracted
  • Stop and think before acting or saying something
  • Show empathy towards peers
  • Don’t post information on social media that is disrespectful to peers
  • Don’t gossip, start drama, or bully kids

 

Remember, middle school doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. Use these preventive strategies to start your journey on a positive note!

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Starting High School: Finding your people!

Starting High School: Finding your people!

Starthigh school, finding your peopleing high school can be exciting, or frightening if you don’t have your people. The classes get harder, the social pressures are through the roof. Finding your people is key to teens’ success in high school. Whether their people are the band kids, the jocks, the theater kids, the environmentalists, every teen needs someone who relates to them. Here are three easy tips to helping your teen find the right people for them. So they can have a great overall experience!

Find Your People Who Like You For You

Teens may feel the need to act or do things differently to try to appear “cooler” to fit in with others.  However, if they just work on being themselves they will find friends who like them for who they really are.  In high school there will be a range of different types of people and personalities- so being true to themselves will help to build genuine friendships with the people right for them.

 Find Your People Who Share A Common Interest

If there is a hobby, sport, game, activity or skill that your teen enjoys participating in, another teen will likely similar interest as well. An example, if your child or teen is interested in art, they may be able to find common ground with another student who enjoys theater and can exchange ideas and share their love of fine arts. Above all, finding common interests can help your teen find some amazing friends who they can work on their interests with or share their passions.

 Find Your People Who Like to Spend Time with You

In any case, engaging in conversation with new people can seem daunting to teens. For some teens, bringing something to “do” with friend, can break that barrier and can take the stress away from having a conversation. This can help your teen relate and allow your teen to invite others to participate with them. This can include them bringing a deck of cards, simple craft projects, or even pre-loading, or showing friends an app or game on their phone to play together. By offering an activity to do together, your teen can begin to initiate the start of a friendship.

All things considered, by taking advantage of some of the simple tips mentioned above, your teen can be on their way towards successful and meaningful friendships in high school!

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TEENS – Summer Fun without Screens

Summer: School’s Out/Now What

Summer is a time to relax and enjoy without the stress of school.  The weather is hot, the pools are open, friends are in abundance, and the excitement is in the air. By the end of July, the summer excitement begins to fizzle out and the pool, beach, and usual activities are becoming redundant (read: BORING) to teens.

They Only Want to Be on their Phones/Tablets/Games

As the end of summer freedom approaches, it gets more and more difficult to keep the teens entertained without their electronics. However, too much screen time can lead to sleep, mood, and cognitive problems. Going overboard on screen time can interfere with the brain’s reward system making electronics addictive. Electronics and video games can release dopamine in the brain, which is the feel good chemical.

Too much stimulation can cause the reward system to become less sensitive and need more to get the same effect; like a drug.  So what’s a parent to do?

Here is a list of 21 screen-free activities.

  1. Challenge your kids to complete 3 activities each day before using their electronics.
  2. Bake cookies, cakes, pies, etc
  3. Walk to your local library and check out a book!
  4. Go bowling
  5. Make a collage of your favorite pictures, quotes, etc.
  6. Organize your room
  7. Check out one of your local parks and trails for hiking
  8. Ride you bike
  9. Go Rollerblading or ice skating at your local rink
  10. Design a scavenger hunt for a future party with your friends
  11. Visit a museum
  12. Make a piñata
  13. Learn to play an instrument – check out garage sales to find one!
  14. Make an obstacle course
  15. Carve a watermelon
  16. Play some board games – complete a game of Monopoly.
  17. Make a time capsule, bury it for 5 years.
  18. Make your own candy
  19. Take pictures in your local park or city.
  20. Go fishing
  21. Make a kite and fly it

 

Make your own list of activities.  If you need some resources, check out these sites:

https://wehavekids.com/parenting/100-things-to-do-this-summer-teens

http://www.yourmodernfamily.com/screen-free/

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