**This post has been sponsored by The Brain Performance Center to Bring you this experience. All opinions are 100% our own!**
Students and educators alike are preparing for the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test this month. This time has been known to increase stress levels in students (and teachers!), and it isn’t lost on me that it also falls in April which is National Stress Awareness Month. In an effort to help equip fellow moms, we had a conversation with The Brain Performance Center around anxiety in our kids.
What causes this anxiety around standardized tests?
Leigh Richardson, MS, LPC, NCC, BCN, BCB from The Brain Performance Center provided some insight on the causes of anxiety around this time in our children’s education, and it isn’t actually the test itself. There are several changes that the kids will experience and a lot of pressure that can be projected onto them during this time.
“There are changes in the classroom environment, schedules are changed, there is much talk about what happens if you don’t pass the tests” Leigh Richardson explained to us.
Stress is placed on teachers too. There is concern that the students may not perform at their expected level and that could reflect poorly on their teaching. Kids pick up on this very easily. The young development of their brains has also not properly equipped them to think through standardized testing. As Leigh puts it,
“They are responding from their emotional control – the amygdala – not the frontal lobes where we make good decisions.”
Are certain children more susceptible to stress and anxiety than others? What traits do certain children possess that may serve as a warning sign?
Some children are definitely more sensitive to the environmental stressors that standardized testing creates than others. According to Leigh,
“If your child seems more tired, more stressed out, and is having a harder time than usual with schoolwork – those are red flags. If your child is having a harder time getting started in the morning on school days, it could be that the testing has created a sense of dread…”
In some cases, this stress and dread can manifest itself in more ways than just being obviously stressed out and moody. It can also show up in physiological states such as headaches and stomach aches.
How can you dialogue with your children without overwhelming them more?
If you are anything like me, you desire to talk through your child’s feelings as a way to help relieve their stress and take on some of that burden. That isn’t always the best solution when a child feels the weight of stress on their shoulders. How can you help them without adding to that anxiety?
“Be observant to your child’s behavior and listen to what they say, reflect their feelings so that they know you heard them. Let them know that it is okay to feel unsure about things and offer suggestions on coping skills.” -Leigh
You don’t have to talk the issue to death. Engage with them in different ways – listening to music, drawing, painting, or simply taking a walk outside together are all ways to help your children understand that they are not alone. Remember to ask them if there is anything you can do to help them feel more prepared but don’t go overboard in your desire to dialogue.
How can a child combat anxiety and relax their brains?
Leigh says that a major part of calming the brain is to focus on your breathing.
“When we are anxious, we are taking short choppy breaths, and this increases our heart rate. When we slow our breath rate down, this slows the heart rate down and creates a sense of calm.”
Meditation and calming apps are great and abundant on your smartphone. Leigh’s personal favorites are Headspace and Calm. Further DreamyKid and Breathing Bubbles are apps designed specifically for anxious kids.
Need more resources? The Brain Performance Center can help!
The Brain Performance Center works with many anxious children and has found if the STAAR test sends your child over the top, there could be some general anxiety going on all the time. They have a program available that incorporates biofeedback and neurofeedback to calm the brain down and increase self-confidence. They are located in Dallas, and their first consultation is free!