Standardized Tests – How to Help Kids Cope With the Pressure

Are standardized tests in the news in your community?  It seems to be what everyone is talking about around here.  Federal and state-mandated standardized tests are given to almost all students in grades K-12 in the spring, as far as I can understand.  I am not an expert in primary education, standardized testing or curriculum development so I can’t speak about the tests from that angle.  But, I am an expert in anxiety and parenting and have a few thoughts about how testing affects those sorts of things.

I have watched standardized testing season come and go (as a psychologist and mom) for over a decade now.  And here’s the thing: they cause A LOT of anxiety, worry and nervous feelings all the way around.  In parents, in students, in teachers in administrators – probably bus drivers and custodians too – everyone’s feeling the tension.  It’s almost impossible to escape.

Here are some ideas for managing the testing season in your home:

  • Keep your routine normal.  Kids thrive on routine.  Chances are their school days will look a little different during testing season (different class schedules, dismissal times, etc) so it becomes even more important that routines remain the same at home.  Try to keep normal bedtimes, mealtimes and activities going on as usual.
  • Resist the urge to talk about testing.  Your kids – whether in 1st or 11th grade – have likely been hearing about their standardized tests for weeks as teachers prepare them for what to expect.  When they get home they might need a break from all the hype.  A simple: “How did the test go today?” is likely all you need to ask about it.  Grilling our kids, ranting about the philosophical flaws of their school system or putting extra pressure on them to perform academically is rarely helpful.  Keep it light and give them a break.
  • Teach stress management skills.  Life is full of stressors.  Mastering a couple stress management strategies in childhood can be a wonderful thing.  If your child is a little stressed on test days, consider using the opportunity to teach him some basic stress management strategies: Take deep breaths; visual a soothing, restful place; Go on a bike ride or walk.

The vast majority of kids (and parents!) make it through testing season just fine and chances are you (and I!) will, too.  If you are concerned that your child’s worry seems more intense than normal, or it doesn’t resolve after the tests are over, you might consider meeting with a psychologist.  Read more about whether therapy is needed here.

*This post first published March 2015*

More Thoughts About Stress

Photo credit: Daily Burn

For all the information out there about stress management (and on this site alone!), you would think we would all be experts at it by now. But sadly all of us (yes, even psychologists) struggle to manage stress effectively at times. Or most of the time. Or everyday.

Anyway, I recently spoke to the folks over the Daily Burn about stress, how it affects our bodies and how to manage it effectively (and not so effectively).

Here are a couple of tips:

and

To read the entire article, including how small amounts of stress affect our bodies, check out the entire article:

Tax Time Stress

Only about a week and a half remains until Tax Day.  A time of universal stress.

Will I have to pay?

Do I have all the documents I need?

Will I get enough of a refund to pay off my debts?

Will I be able to get my return filed before the deadline?

These are some of the more immediate stressors around this time of year.  But tax season can also bring up larger financial worries that plague a huge percentage of Americans.

Do I have enough saved for retirement?

Am I spending too much each year?

Are my partner and I on the same page in terms of financial goals?

A few years ago I spoke with Live Science about how to manage some of the stressors of tax time – and financial stress in general. Here’s a bit of the article:

Here’s the full article:

Preparing for a New Sibling

Several years ago – 6 to be exact – I got a call from a writer from Parenting Magazine.  She was working on a story about how to prepare older siblings for a new baby, and wondered if she might ask me some questions.  It was a fun interview – made even better because I had just found out I was expecting my third child. This meant I was trying to take my own advice at the same time I was giving it!

Anyway, this article has a special place in my heart because of the timing.  Check it out:

My favorite tip:

Who couldn’t use a gift?

 

Teaching Kids How To Love Their Bodies

How many of us love our bodies?

Not many.

But I think all of us would agree that we want the young people around us to love theirs.

Hmmmm….

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to model a healthy body image for our kids.  It’s actually easier than you might think to focus on all the things our bodies CAN do instead of what they CAN’T.  And it can be a fun challenge to talk about our bodies in terms of their FUNCTION (strong legs) instead of their LOOKS (flat stomach).  Check out the entire article, including all my healthy-role-model-tips here:

Do You Have News Fatigue?

Are you overwhelmed with the news?

Do you dread the constant news alerts popping up on your phone?

Are you sick of hearing about, talking about and thinking about what’s going on in Washington, DC and beyond?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from new fatigue. I know I am!  I recently got a chance to talk about why news fatigue happens – and more importantly – what to do about it! This segment aired on ScrippsTV channels across the country yesterday – including on our very own Denver Channel 7.

How Psychologists Deal With Stress

Back in the fall I spoke with the Huffington Post about anxiety surrounding the election.  Here’s a quote:

Like everyone else I thought that by now – a full three months after election day – politics would once again be in the background of our lives.  Obviously that hasn’t happened.  Instead, it seems like the stress and dissent has only increased.

Once again I spoke with the Huffington Post this week about how psychologists (no matter their personal politics) are managing with all the stress in the air.  Here’s my my tip:

I really like this..maybe I’ll give it a try this weekend:

 

How to Fight Stress By Learning to Skydive

Skydiving helps decrease stress? What?!

OK, so the title of this post is sort of misleading.  Skydiving by itself probably doesn’t lead to decreased stress (it certainly wouldn’t for me).  BUT, learning a new skill (like skydiving, for example) can be a great way to manage the everyday stressors of life.

I recently came across this article about learning new things:

A piece outlining how the author took up Irish dancing and gained all sorts of wonderful new insights about herself (she was better than she thought she might be, and she became more confident when it came to learning other new skills too).  And low and behold, look what else was in the article:

A quote from an article I wrote 6 years ago about trying new things and the benefits to mental health.

Even though it’s old news on this blog, I still do believe in the importance of learning new things; and putting ourselves in awkward,uncomfortable situations so that we can experience the success of coming out the other side.  As this time of year is gray, cold and generally nasty in most parts of the country this time of year – it can be the perfect opportunity to take skydiving Irish dancing crocheting lessons.

Power Your Lunchbox – Hearty Snack Time

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I’m thrilled to be continuing my work with Produce for Kids this year.  If you don’t know about the organization, they are an awesome group of folks who strive to help kids and families have fun while eating well.  Check it out:

Produce for Kids® believes in creating a healthier generation through cause marketing campaigns that provide easy, fun and inspiring recipes. Produce for Kids has been helping families and children by giving back since 2002. Through produce and grocery retail partner programs, Produce for Kids has donated more than $6 million to charities that benefit children and families nationwide.

One of my favorite things about Produce for Kids are the ideas they have for healthy meals and snacks.  A couple of times a year they focus their efforts in helping families pack healthy lunches.  Take the pledge to power your lunchbox!

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I’m going to be honest, in our house we heartily support buying lunch at school.  There are a few reasons for this, not least of which is that it makes the mornings more pleasant – no lunches to pack!  But it still leaves after school snack time to deal with.  As my kids are getting older, the afternoon snack is becoming more important – there is just so much to accomplish in the afternoons before dinnertime. Things like:

  • Homework
  • Piano Lessons
  • Karate
  • Soccer practice
  • Swimming lessons
  • Choir

and really boring things like:

  • Meetings

The other day, we had a full afternoon in the hours between after school and bedtime: homework, piano lessons, soccer practice (2 of them actually), basketball practice  and a parent meeting at school.  On days like these, snacks are particularly important.  I’ve been trying to be better about packing good looking, healthy snacks that will sustain my kids (and me!) until dinnertime – which often ends up being later than I would like.

So while the big kids were at school, my little guy and I tried our hand at homemade hummus.  We used this recipe by the Pioneer Woman (don’t you just love her).  It was super easy, and also delicious because we were able to tweak the ingredients to our taste (more lemon juice, less garlic).

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Everything is just dumped into the blender and mixed up until smooth

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Put it in an airtight container

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And make sure to pack some yummy, healthy things to dip in all that deliciousness!

snack-time

This would also make a good lunch – but hearty, tasty snacks are important too!

Don’t forget to take the pledge to Power Your Lunchbox (or snack box, or whatever!) – Happy snacking!

 

 

 

New Year…New You?

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Happy 2017!

I’m not a huge fan of New Years resolutions. But I do think that the start of the year can be a good time to reflect on where we’ve been – and where we’d like to go. We all know that losing weight and being more careful with money are top goals for many. But I think other, more introspective goals are more interesting, impactful and do-able.

Taking note of things like:

  • How you spend your time – and who you spend it with
  • The words you use when talking about yourself and others
  • The way you interact with technology and social media
  • The roles, obligations and jobs you have – and whether they are still a good fit

Considering these and other aspects of life takes a little time and energy – but I think it’s worth it!

I wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to make changes that last.  My favorite tip from the article?

Make personally-meaningful goals. We can’t all care about everything. It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to be: never-cheater eaters, marathon runners, ultra-savers, perfect parents, top-notch employees, garden club honorees, award-winning volunteers, Pinterest stars…you get the picture. Instead of trying to be everything everyone else tells you that you should be, focus on being what you want to be. Not only will your goals be more meaningful, you will be more likely to meet them.

Here’s the whole article:

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