Helping 10-year-olds relax and stay calm around exam time is vitally important for their general well-being and mental health but also to ensure they deliver in line with their potential.
Here’s some tried and tested techniques that you can use to help them overcome any anxiety they may be feeling and I hope you find some (or all) that work well with your child.
If you need any
Tip 1: Establish a routine
Maintaining a consistent daily routine can help reduce anxiety. Ensure they have a regular study schedule that includes ‘brain breaks’ and time for relaxation.
Tip 2: Healthy Diet
Encourage a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Research shows these foods are proven to have positive effect on the brain specially around exam time – bluberries, berry smoothies, nuts, eggs, fish, avocados, dark chocolate, coco products, red, green and orange vegetables are all great!
Tip 3: Adequate Sleep and Bedtime Visualisations
Try to ensure they get enough sleep as lack of sleep can increase stress and negatively impact cognitive function.
Listening to relaxing visualisations at bedtime (specially exam performance ones), can help the brain create memories, even if they are not real ones. Simply put, if a child visualises themselves in an exam setting seeing themselves being calm, relaxed and confident their brain won’t know the difference so when they come to sit the exams the brain thinks they have done this many times before. This creates a positive mindset by encouraging children to imagine positive outcomes and this optimism can have a profound impact on their performance.
Encourage them to close their eyes and imagine a successful outcome.
Visualisation can help them feel more excited and less nervous.
Tip 4: Exercise
Physical activity is a great stress reliever. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, like playing sports or going for a bike ride, yoga or even a kick about with a ball.
If structured exercise isn’t their thing, even being outside is good so maybe just go for a mindful walk. All these things release serotonin which helps to balance moods and keep stress at bay.
Tip 5: Breathing Exercises
The power of our breath is amazing!
Using a simple deep breathing exercises can have a huge benefits on our nervous system and helps to:
- manage stress and anxiety,
- regulate big emotions lower nervousness,
- creates feeling of calm specially when in flight, fright freeze mode
- reduces anger and frustration
- and helps with to encourage focus
Its like having a super power to help deal with challenging times and be more able to navigate the ups and down of life!
The trick is to practice breathe work when we are calm, for example at bedtime, the more we practice it the easier it is to access it in times of challenge.
Here are a few quick examples:
Breathe in slowly through your nose for 3 seconds….
Hold the breathe for 5 seconds……
Breathe out slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds.
Imagine you have a balloon in your belly, you can lie down, sit or stand as you do this.
As you inhale slowly through your nose encourage your belly to expand just like a balloon inflating….hold for a few seconds…..exhale through your mouth and allow your tummy deflate back into place.
**Its best to not raise your chest or shoulders as you practise this.
You can imagine you are smelling flowers and blowing out candles as you do this.**
Tip 6: Positive Self-Talk and self Compassion
Affirmations release oxytocin!
Teach children to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
Turning “I can’t do this into” into “I can do this ” or “I can’t do this yet”.
Repeating short, positive sentences in the morning as they get ready for their day and/or at night will encourage them to believe in themselves and their abilities. Positive, internal dialog can have such a massive impact on our children’s mental health and well-being.
Here are some affirmations to try, feel free to copy and print, put them on your child’s wall and encourage them to repeat twice in the morning and again at night.
- I am smart and capable!
- I’ve prepared for this exam, and I’m ready to do my best!
- I believe in myself and my abilities!
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow!
- I can stay focused and do my best work!
- I am confident!
- I am calm and relaxed, which helps me think clearly!
- I am not alone, my family and teachers support me!
- I am proud of my efforts, no matter the outcome!
- I can tackle any challenge that comes my way!
- I am excited to do my tests!
- My breath is my superpower, it will help me calm my nerves!
Encourage your child to repeat these affirmations daily, especially before and during an exam period and this will help build their confidence and reduce anxiety.
Reminding them that exams are just one way to show what they’ve learned, and that their worth goes beyond test scores.
Tip 7: Create a Calm Environment to do Practice Papers at Home
Ensure they have a quiet, well-lit, and organised area.
Play some relaxing music preferably long gentle tracks as research has shown that there are proven benefits of this such as helping you concentrate, feel more focused and motivated.
Tip 8: Encourage Questions
Let them know it’s okay to ask questions about what they’re learning or anything they don’t understand. Feeling confident in their knowledge can reduce anxiety.
Also allowing them to know that mistakes are okay to make – we learn and grow from them, and guess what, everybody makes them!
Tip 9: Limit Screen Time
I know this can be a difficult one but excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can interfere with sleep. So set limits on screen time as it’ll help with general wellbeing, concentration and focus the following day.
Tip 10: Celebrate Small Wins
Celebrate their accomplishments along the way, no matter how small.
Positive reinforcement can boost confidence and self-esteem.
Tip 11: Limit Comparisons
Discourage them from comparing themselves to classmates. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Tip 12: Talk About ‘Exam Anxiety‘
Have open conversations about their feelings and concerns regarding exams.
Let them know it’s normal to feel anxious and that you’re there to support them.
Tip 13: Reframing Nervous Jitters
Explain that those feelings of nervousness are sometimes called ‘jitters‘ and we feel these jitters in our tummies, or our heart might beat fast or maybe we feel shaky. But guess what we also feel those same feeling in our bodies when we are excited!
Getting them to repeat the words “I am excited” several times, helps to turn those negative feeling into something more positive.
It’s like our bodies are getting ready for something exciting!”
Tip 14: Plan Fun Activities After Exams
Having something enjoyable to look forward to after exams can provide motivation and reduce stress.
Tip 15: Other Relaxation Techniques To Try
Introducing relaxation techniques at test time such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, listening to calming music and mindfulness, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and overall mental health and if you need additional support with these techniques, then Relax Kids Belfast (With Sinead York) is always happy to help and you can contact her through the Relax Kids Facebook Page, email Relax Kids at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02890 808113.
Sinead comes highly recommended and many parents have found her support invaluable in previous years so well worth a try if you have an anxious child.
A Big Thank You To Sinead
A big thank you to Sinead York from Relax Kids, Belfast for taking the time to compile this invaluable list for kids going through the new, SEAG transfer test in Northern Ireland, and as with anything new, brings unknowns which can cause unnecessary concern.
I hope you all found this blog interesting and all agree there was some great advice and ideas to help the kids reduce any concerns or anxiety they might currently have, and some real, tangible activities you can do to help them through the process so they perform to the best of their ability on the test days. Thank you again, Sinead.
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