We have approached the time of the year for FSA testing. Students and parents are experiencing this time in many different ways. Test anxiety is something that disrupts the entire family along with the student taking this test. It is important to note how anxiety shows up in our children. Teens have the ability to express when they feel anxious and some can identify the trigger for this anxiety. However, young children have a difficult time understanding anxiety and describing how they experience it.
As parents, we have a general understanding of how anxiety should look like. Nonetheless, we sometimes miss symptoms associated with anxiety which mimics other sicknesses such as stomach bugs. Common anxiety symptoms to be aware of include but are not limited to:
- Trouble sleeping. All of the sudden your child cannot fall asleep or wakes up frequently during the night. Also, they regress to feeling the need to sleep with a parent or in the parents’ bedroom.
- Stomach aches or upset stomach. This is a common symptom in majority of children. Children have a hard time identifying “that discomfort” in their stomach as anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating. A decrease in concentration in doing homework or classwork that did not exist before. An anxious child would all of the sudden take a much longer time doing their homework or get easily distracted than their usual. Sometimes this is accompanied by forgetfulness and/or hyperactivity. Please be aware that these symptoms are usually mistaken for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
- Emotional dysregulation. An inability to control their emotions specifically anger. You could see an increase in anger outburst or even temper tantrums not appropriate to their age. Usually a well regulated child can feel so overwhelmed that intense emotions (anger, frustration, sadness) would take over them.
How to help your child with test anxiety varies on each child. However, here are some tips on how to reduce overall anxiety in children:
- Enhance Confidence. Increase positive self talk with your child. A simple skill for this is to have your child verbalize at least 2 positive things about themselves. Focus on self talk not on things around them. Increase activities that makes your child feel confident even if it is a sport, hobby or play time.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Breathing exercises and mindfulness activities are great ways to lower anxiety. Make sure they are tailored for children so it can be fun.
- Evaluate their nutrition. What you eat can affect your mood. The same goes for children. Many kids do not eat enough vegetables and fruits. Instead they consume higher amounts of carbs which can result in a sugar imbalance. Certain foods, such as VitaminB rich foods, are important factors to help the body deal with stress. You can increase certain supplements like L-Theanine to help regulate mood. A balance meal of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat can go a long way during testing times.
- Seek professional help. If the anxiety is affecting your child’s daily functioning, please seek professional help. A licensed mental health professional with experience in children can definitely assist you and your family on the right treatment for your child.
Always remember that not everyone experiences anxiety the same way. Identifying specific triggers and coping skills varies depending on culture, lifestyle and belief systems. Remind yourself that we are full of emotions and feeling anxious is one of them. How we handle our emotions is what matters most.
Author: Mayeling Angelastro MA, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor dedicated in helping individuals, families, couples, children and teenagers in the Horizon West, Windermere and Dr Phillips area. (321) 247-8557