The New York Times says these tests "are unlike any exams the students have seen. They have been redesigned and are tougher" as a result, it is causing an increasing in test anxiety and stress in many of our youth. So what can be done to help with the common core blues?
Start the day with a mindfulness exercise:
Morning are often rushed and routined, adding a little mindfulness to your morning routine can set the tone for the day, and contribute to reduced stress, improved sleep quality and heightened focus.
Two quick and easy exercises I love are color breathing and mantras.
Color Breathing is a great technique for both children and adults to use when feeling overwhelmed, and/or frustrated. Pick a color you associate with happy, calm, positive feelings. Then, pick a color you associate with the feelings you are struggling with anger, fear, sadness, frustration. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and your hands either dangling by your side, or palms facing up on your lap. As you take your first big breath in, imagine that happy color entering your body, radiating all things good, happiness, positivity, calm. As you breathe out imagine the struggle color leaving your body taking any icky, yucky, or unsettling thoughts with it. Repeat this cycle for about two minutes, guiding your child as you go to breathe in happy positive thoughts, and out anything unsettling. When it's time to wrap up, ask your child how much of each color they have inside them to get an idea of where they are in the process.
Mantra's are sayings that are repeated frequently in an attempt to enter a state of mindfulness and calm. One of my favorites is "Let It Go" (although I am almost positive it may not be one of yours after the Frozen craze, but I promise it's worth a try!) This mantra encourages your children to think of the things that sometimes frustrate, anger or scare them, and that they have no control over (like school testing) and imagine letting them go! This can be done with guided imagery or by drawing.
I love this activity sheet from Sarah Rudell Beach at LeftBrainBuddha.com
Instruct your children to draw the pictures in the balloons, and then imagine sending them into the sky, and letting them go amongst the clouds.
Be sure to emphasize that this is not attempt to ignore or minimize their feelings, but rather a way to address and recognize them, and lift the heaviness that accompanies those feelings from them, so that they can resume the day in a positive frame of mind!
In guided imagery, you guide the child through the same process using their imagination. Focus on one emotion at a time. Let’s take anger for example. Ask your child, what does it look like? Is it a color, does it have a face? Ask what your child see's when they feel sad. Next, what does it feel like? Does it hurt, do you feel like a volcano? Try to help them identify how it affects their senses? Some children will say they feel hot, or see red, let them describe it to you in their own way. There is no right or wrong answer! After getting that information it's time to imagine all of those things in a bubble or balloon and letting that feeling go. Acknowledge, validate, and let that feeling go way way up, feel it lifing from your body, your worries, your anger, your sadness, lifting away from your toes, and feeling it lift off of your shoulders, and into the sky. Explain just as you would with the drawing, that sometimes we can not change things, but we can change how we feel about them, by knowing our feelings, identifying them, and learning to let them go!
These activities often lead to some great conversations with children about their feelings, thoughts, and even lead them to identify other stressors (that can also be released in this way). Don't be afraid to engage in these important conversations- and allow your child to express both positive, and "negative" feelings. It will leave you both feeling lighter, and brighter, and in a better frame of mind to tackle to stresses of the day!