Test Stress

Relaxation Techniques

The best defense against exam overload is for your teen to learn how to stay calm in general. If your child follows these practices, handling challenges without getting overwhelmed will eventually become automatic.

Progressive relaxation. Have your child lie flat. Tell her first to contract her facial muscles, hold for a count of 3, then relax them. Next, tell her to slowly squeeze then release every muscle group throughout the rest of her body, one area at a time -- back, arms, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. After a few run-throughs she should be able to do it on her own (before bed is a good time).

Slow breathing. When your son notices he's tensing up, he should deliberately inhale (count to 4) and exhale slowly, repeating 5 times, says Krain.

Good health habits. You've heard it before, but it's too important to ignore: Make sure your tween or teen gets enough sleep, eats right, and exercises regularly. Physical well-being makes kids more resilient overall and less vulnerable to stressful situations, advises Hinojosa.

Positive thinking. Overwhelmed kids are invariably having negative thoughts like, "This is too hard" or "There's no way I can write three essays." Suggest to your child that she replace that inner harangue with positive words (written, or said out loud or to herself) like, "I've done my best so I don't have to worry" or "No matter what, I tried." Similarly, if she's feeling intimidated by an upcoming event, she should visualize it going well.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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