Sunday | December 8, 2019

How To Successfully Manage Test Anxiety In High School

Test anxiety is essentially a state of excessive fear or worry about situations involving formal evaluations such as tests or major papers in schools or colleges.

While feeling stressed and jittery before major tests in a normal phenomenon for some, others might find it hard to cope with the pressure. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, about 16-20% of students have high test anxiety which makes it the most prevalent scholastic impairment in schools today. In fact, the majority of students report that they are more stressed by tests and schoolwork than by anything else in their lives.

 

What Causes Test Anxiety?

There are several reasons that contribute to test anxiety; it primarily stems from worrying about one’s self-worth. Students suffering from test anxiety tend to think that acceptance by peers, parents, and teachers depends only on their academic achievements.

According to Dr. Robert Pressman, director of research for the New England Center of Pediatric Psychology, test anxiety has primarily three distinct components such physiological, behavioral and psychological.

Students suffering from anxiety tend to demonstrate typical physiological symptoms such as feeling light-headed, sweaty, tensed as well as experiencing knot in stomach, nausea and rapid heartbeat. Similarly, in terms of behavior, they may either have disorganized thoughts or go completely blank as well. Some common psychological traits during test anxiety range from restlessness to feeling restless and insecure.

 

How to Manage Test Anxiety in High School

From midterms to college entrance exams to finals, high-schoolers face a slew of tests which push their nerves and make them anxious, especially when the dates of these comes approach.

Here are a few tips on how to manage your test anxiety in high school:

 

Be Prepared

Even as this sounds pretty obvious, it’s one of the best ways to avoid test anxiety. The more prepared and confident you are for the test, the less you’re likely to feel jittery. It’s that simple. Don’t start studying the day before a test. Give yourself a few days to let the material sink.

​Want to determine your preparedness for the upcoming tests? Take a look at the test prep experts at The Princeton Review and discover your test readiness.

 

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Cramming isn’t an ideal way to prepare for the test. In fact, it makes increases the anxiety about your preparedness. Many high-school students tend to pull an all-nighter, which negatively affects their nerves and their ability to think clearly during the exam. If you want to stay cool, calm and collected, the right approach is getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

​According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night to ideally function. However, a study found only 15% of the students reported sleeping for 8 ½ hours on school nights. Let your brain and body rest well before the test.

 

Fuel Up

If you want to have an optimal state of mind, it’s important to eat healthy and stay well-hydrated before the test. Many students skip their breakfast out of sheer anxiety while others indulge in crash dieting, both of which are detrimental to your body and mind. As a matter of fact, eating healthy has been found effective in improving test scores. According to a research by the University of California, Berkeley, a healthier diet positively affects students’ test scores. Make sure your foods are rich in nutrition to keep a healthy regimen.

 

Listen to Relaxing Music

It’s only natural to feel a bit nervous before the test. However, if you want to avoid letting negative thoughts cripple you, listen to relaxing music before the test. Once you let your body and mind sync with the music, your heart rate will come down its’ normal range.

 

Get to Class or the Test Early

​The feeling of being late for the test is real and it can add unneeded anxiety. To avoid feeling rushed, pack your stuff the night before the test and set your alarm clock to get up early and reach the class for your test with time to spare. If it’s an online test, make sure you browse site beforehand to get a feel of it, especially if it’s your first time.

 

Develop Positive Mental Attitude

Negative thoughts fuel test anxiety for high schoolers. Make it a practice to cultivate ways of staying motivated no matter what the situation is. Surround yourself with friends with a positive bent of mind. Read some inspiring quotes and listen to a motivational talk before the test to stay inspired.

 

Read Carefully

​It’s always a best practice to read your questions and directions carefully before providing an answer. This applies to multiple choice, long form questions and essays.

​Don’t spend too much time on a question that appears tricky right off the bat. Move on to the next question to get in a early groove.

 

Don’t Pay Attention to What Others are Doing

Students can often worry about what others in the room are up to, therefore distracting them from thinking clearly. This happens especially when you’re not self assured and feeling nervous. Rather than looking around, focus on one question (the easiest ones) to build your confidence as you progress through the test. You can even try wearing ear plugs if this helps you block out sounds and disruptions from your classmates.

 

Watch the Clock

At the beginning of the test, spare a moment to scan the questions and determine in what order you prefer to answer them. Once you have allocated time for each of those levels, stick to the plan. Getting started without any plans can leave you tense when you realize you’re out of time for the remaining questions.

 

Practice Calm Breathing with These Mobile Apps

Deep breathing is a tried-and-true method that helps you slow down your heart rate and keeping it stable. Calming exercises such as yoga and meditation are also effective ways to stave off your nerves and reduce anxiety. There are many mobile apps that can help when you know you have stressful events coming in your life. Universal Breathing, Paced Breathing, Breathe2Relax, Relax Stress, End Anxiety, and Breathing Zone are all worth trying.

 

Get Help

If you feel you need help and support to battle test anxiety, you should consult your teachers or school guidance counselors. Simply speaking to someone about your anxieties can be a good first step to help you cope with it.

Tips for Parents: How to Help Your Teens Deal with Test Anxiety

It’s very common for teens to undergo anxious moments before the tests. However, parents can play a huge role in helping their teens cope with test anxiety.  If not treated early, it can translate into a bigger issue throughout your teens life. Here are a few things that you can do to help.

 

Listen to Their Concerns

It’s natural for your teen to be unsure about a test and its outcome. However, as a parent, you need to reach out to them and be empathetic about the challenges. Speak to them honestly and be realistic about the whole issue. Telling your kids that you’re there for them regardless of the outcome of the test can be a good starting point. However, sometimes, you need to understand the underlying problems that trigger tension in your teens.

 

Help Them Balance

More often than not, teens get nervous because they are unable to strike a balance between balancing their studies and other activities. As a parent, you need to push them to scale back on other things, letting them find more time to focus on studying. You need to help him manage their time for the upcoming tests, setting up a schedule to fully prepare for  the test(s).

​​Teaching them the art of prioritization and time management will help them throughout their lives.

 

Help Them Anticipate the Test Beforehand

Many teens lose sleep over the types of questions that may be in the test, regardless of how well prepared they are. Some of them don’t really know what to expect from the test. Help your teens anticipate different types of questions that could appear. If the test is on a previous chapter in a text book then take a look at that with your teen. Look at any practice questions that may be available for that chapter. They can then prepare for them well in advance and this will help them eliminate any surprises in the test.

 

In Conclusion

Success in exams isn’t just about good study habits; they are also about learning to stay calm and being able to fight off your nervousness. With the above mentioned tips, you can manage test anxiety and optimize your academic performance.

November 1st, 2019

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What I Would Tell My Younger Self About Planning a Great Career

For many teens, deciding on a career is fraught with uncertainties which make them nervous about their career choices.

Should a career reflect their passions? Does pragmatism always have to involve going with the grain? What if they have to start their career all over again looking for newer possibilities in an evolving industry? In short, how do they make smart choices?

Some of the greatest advantages for millennials is their comfort with technologies and the seamless integration of their lifestyle into the digital landscape. However this does not mean every young person would or should want a career in technology (ie. programmers, digital marketing etc).

It always bodes well to take stock of where we are and what we want, especially while planning a career. It can set the wheels in motion for a wonderful fulfilling future or can it turn out to be a long and painful professional life.

 

Looking in the Mirror

When it comes to making the right career choices, maintaining clarity with your thoughts is vital. While some career choices might seem appealing on the surface, they may not be so great in the long run.

Choosing the right career begins with exploring your passion and instincts. Teens should discover their likes and dislikes and think about choosing career options that are aligned with their strengths. Whether you choose technology over arts or a trade over law, make sure you know where your interests lie. Moreover, you need to prep yourself to be mentally resilient and flexible. It’s extremely important for teens to learn how to cope with setbacks in their career journey

 

Research, Research, Research

The easiest accessible database is Google. One can research a host of career options covering a range of interests. Whether your career motivators are financial, social, artistic etc., there is no limit to the research data available for you. You can even go to job sites to see the wide array of opportunities available. There could be roles to never realized that existed that excite you.

It also pays to look ahead ​​and see how industries and job markets are predicted to change in the future.

​Reach out to people who work in the chosen area of interest and communicate with them over email, social media or LinkedIn. Reading up about notable personalities who have made it big or following their blog posts also help assess your career direction.

​No online research can beat actual conversations with experienced people involved in industries or careers that interest you. Try to take every opportunity to speak to as many people as possible. And ask lots of questions about what they like/dislike about their jobs and what advice they can give a younger person planning a career in their field.

 

Start Building Career Skills Early On

As a teen, it’s really difficult to figure out your plans about your career. However, rather than fretting over what’s right or wrong, the best way to deal with this confusion is to do a couple of internships while you’re at school. This will give you ample scope to explore your strengths, likes and dislikes, which will eventually help you make the right career decisions. The good news is making mistakes in your internship won’t probably cost you a huge deal. Use the internship experience hone your skills that will stand in good stead moving forward.

 

Mentoring

It helps to develop healthy mentor-protege relationship. The mentor should calm your nerves when you are at the precipice of something new but also pick you up when you fall to hard. They are like a very wise human pros-and-cons checklist. They help in deconstructing your thoughts and provide strategies on how to move forward. People-pleasers are not great mentors. Seek those you can provide practical experience with unbiased advice for you.

 

Develop a Well-defined Career

Dreaming big is one thing but charting your career path is another. Many teens are instinctively ambitious but what they lack is the clarity about their career objectives.

Whether you want be a medical professional or astronaut, you should learn how to develop your career path accordingly. Gather as much information about your career goals as possible. Speak to industry professionals and practitioners and learn about the ground realities. Some career goals will require a decent academic performance throughout your high school and college degree. Be aware of the scores you need and the courses you need to complete to be better prepared for the competitive industry. The more you learn about your goals, the better are your chances of getting there.

 

Take Risks Early

No matter what your career options are, you need to develop a risk appetite for success. In the rapidly evolving world, it’s important to stay current with you career options and learn skills required to pursue your career goals. When you’re in your teens, it’s easier to take risks since you’re not really strapped with many responsibilities of a middle-age professional. As a parent, you need to encourage your teens to take calculated risks and extend support to help them through the journey.

 

You Can Change Your Mind

These days a typical working career can last approximately 40 years. That’s a long time.

​​Because it’s so long, you have time to start a job, learn what you like and dislike as you get more experience and then adjust your career plans accordingly. In fact this can be done several times over a working career.

​Nowadays it’s practically impossible to come across anyone that ends their career with the same company and profession that started in their 20’s.

​There has never been a time with more flexibility and options for change available to people in the workforce. This can take immense pressure off anyone starting to plan a career in their teens.

 

Understand the Meaning of Happiness

Remember that your career choices are ultimately the means to an end and not the end in themselves. Regardless of the career you pursue, it’s important to understand the meaning of motivation. There are many who make tons of money but are still unhappy with their life. While money is one key to leading a satisfying life, it doesn’t necessarily ensure an emotionally fulfilling life. If you’re in a job that continually stimulates and rewards with you then you are likely to lead a healthier and happier life. And that is the true measure of a successful career.

February 1st, 2019

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Fun Things to Do in Toronto This April

As another winter transitions into spring, the occasional snow squall drops in to remind Torontonians they live in The Great White North. Many years have passed since the army was called in to dig out the city. Though much of Canada has mostly forgotten Toronto’s inability to survive a snow storm, Ontarians just up Highway 400 aren’t quite sure if “The 6ix” even experiences winter any more.

Winters vary in intensity, and sometimes it seems Mother Nature skips spring in Toronto, and transitions right into summer. Regardless of the weather, the Greater Toronto Area seems to wake from a long slumber in the spring, and there are many great events to see, and places to go.

If you need help shaking off the winter blahs, here are ten GTA experiences you’ll want to be a part of.

Toronto Blue Jays Home Opener

Most Torontonians would love to watch the Maple Leafs compete in the NHL playoffs each spring, yet fate hasn’t been kind to “The Buds” for many years. Catching the Blue Jays in their season debut in the Rogers Centre gives the city new hope, excitement and optimism. In April, hot dogs taste their juiciest, baseball bats sound their loudest and mini donuts smell their sweetest. OK, Blue Jays, let’s play ball!

Hot Docs Film Festival

Though it lacks the star power of the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall, the Hot Docs Film Festival brings great documentaries to Canada’s largest city. From late April, to early May, reality film makers from around the world descend on Toronto to promote their productions. The Annex region of Toronto plays host to films on topics like:

  • Culture & Creativity
  • Stories from Around the World
  • People and Perspectives
  • Ideas and Issues

These topics leave a lot to the imagination, though the films are real, the crowds are real, and rookie filmmakers are hopeful Hot Docs will launch their career skyward. Spring may have sprung, though Torontonians do like to spend time in dark theatres!

Other Toronto spring film festivals include:

  • TIFF Kids Film Festival
  • Inside Out Film Festival
  • Canadian Film Fest
  • Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Running and Climbing

For Torontonians and tourists who need to get moving in spring, there are lots of opportunities to get off the couch, and raise your heart rate:

  • Good Life Marathon – This challenging run is on May 1st, is a qualifier for the Boston Marathoners and starts in Nathan Phillips Square
  • CN Tower Climb – On April 16th, hordes of charitable Torontonians run up 1,776 steps in support of the World Wildlife Fund. Teams and individuals
  • Harry Rosen Spring Runoff – Early April brings this run in support of the fight against prostate cancer. 5k and 8k runs for all ages

Just as dogs, bears and cats shed their winter coats in the spring, many Torontonians join these events, or take to the streets to walk, jog, cycle and run right past the gym they joined in January.

A Food Festival for Every Palate

To build enough energy to participate in the fitness challenges above, you need fuel right? Toronto offers a broad spectrum of global cuisine year round, and in the spring there are food festivals including:

  • The Raw and Vegan Festival – Or stay home and have a salad
  • Curry Fest – Probably best after the CN Tower Climb, not before
  • Toronto Life’s Best Restaurants Event – 15 top restaurants, showcasing their wares
  • Feast on St. Clair – Get your eat on at multiple purveyors of food

There are a number of events showcasing adult beverages. This is a family blog, so we’ll stick to delicious eats here.

Bursting into Bloom in T-Dot

Every year’s first blooms depend on when Mother Nature is ready to bring flowers to Toronto parks, however when it’s time, you’ll find them exploding into view here:

  • Casa Loma
  • Toronto Botanical Gardens
  • High Park Hillside Gardens
  • Spadina Museum
  • High Park cherry trees
  • Hopefully, your back yard

Torontonians love their gardens, and not just when Frankie Flowers is in town. April showers, some topsoil and some hard work in mid-to late Mays should restore the grey and brown city to match the colours in the vibrant new Toronto sign.

The DVP Isn’t the Only Zoo in Toronto!

Though the Toronto Zoo is famous for its baby pandas, there are many places around the city to spot some of our fine furry friends in the spring:

  • High Park Zoo
  • Reptilia (what says spring better than lizards?)
  • Brooks Farm
  • Far Enough Farm
  • Riverdale Farm
  • Pingle’s Farm Market

If you’ve enjoyed getting out of the city for your maple syrup fix, and plan to spend some quality time in the city, here are some other events you should consider:

  • Doors Open Toronto
  • Fashion Week
  • Toronto Music Week
  • Toronto Spring Bike Show
  • Toronto Spring Fishing Show
  • The Spring Boat, RV, and Motorcycle Shows

If you’re still stuck for ideas on things to do in Toronto this spring, you just haven’t paid attention. The warm weather is on the way, so if you have some time on your hands, do some spring cleaning around your house, or stroll Toronto’s streets and enjoy the rebirth of our city!

April 9th, 2018

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Building Positive Self Esteem in Your Teen

Being a teenager is difficult. Their bodies are changing and growing. Their hormones can make their emotions hard to control. They are meeting new friends, forming new relationships, having new experiences. There are also raised expectations that can feel daunting to meet.

All of this can cause teenagers to have low self-esteem. A teen with low self-esteem will feel unloved, have negative feelings about themselves, avoid trying new things, be easily influenced or blame others for their failures.

We want our teens to have high self-esteem, which is important for their success in life. When a teen has high self-esteem, they view themselves positively, act independently, try new things, are proud of their accomplishments and are better able to handle their emotions.

So how to we ensure our kids grow into teens who have high self-esteem? Luckily there are many ways in which parents can help facilitate a positive self-image in their teens.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]                                       “practice making positive statements about themselves.”[/pullquote]

Praise your child. You don’t want to come off as insincere and compliment everything they do at every turn. This will backfire, particularly for children who have lower self-esteem and don’t accept compliments easily. But you can make a point of letting your child know when they did a good job or that something they did caused you to feel joy or pride in them. We are so often quick to criticize—if only to help our children improve—but well-deserved praised can be very meaningful and heartfelt.

Involve your teen in discussions. Ask your child for their opinion and show them what they think matters. Whether you’re discussing the news or where to go for lunch, seek their thoughts and encourage them to voice their opinions. Teenagers tend to have lots to say and showing them you value what they think will go a long way toward building their self-esteem.

Offer constructive criticism. Rather than putting your child down or making them feel ashamed of their mistake, think about how you can frame it in a more positive light. For instance, rather than telling them how disappointed you were in their test result, let them know that this is a good starting point and that if they spend a little extra time studying, you know the next mark will be better.

​Teach them you have faith in their abilities. Help them set goals and achieve them. Rather than focus on the negative, teach them how to reframe it in a positive way.

Encourage your teen to discover their interests and talents. There’s no better way to feel good about yourself than when you’re doing something you enjoy and at which you excel. Finding that hobby or talent can be tricky, but don’t give up if they don’t find it right away.

​Have them try something new, play with them, say “yes” if they come to you with an idea of their own. This is also a great way to make like-minded friends, expand their skills and even get some exercise if sports is what they enjoy.

Teach your child to practice making positive statements about themselves. It’s so easy to get down on yourself. Too often, we find ourselves saying negative things about ourselves. Teens in particular might tell themselves they are “uncool,” “unlikeable,” “unattractive” or “not smart enough.” This will only harm their self-esteem and can lead to depression and anxiety.

​It’s so important to encourage our teens to practice saying positive things about themselves and to look at situations in a more positive light. For instance, rather than allowing your teen to be upset that their team lost the baseball game, encourage your teen to think about all they fun they had playing. Remind them that they tried their best and that their next game represents a whole new opportunity to have fun, try hard, and maybe even win.

Remind your child that everyone is good at different things. It’s easy for teens to compare themselves to other teens. They tend to notice if others are better at them in certain subjects and feel bad about themselves in comparison.

​Encourage your teen to think about all the things they do well. Let them know it’s great for them to be proud of their friends for their accomplishments. Their friend is sure to compliment them right back when your child excels at something else. This is a great way to spread the goodwill and ensure your child and their social group becomes supportive, rather than competitive.

View mistakes as valuable. We can’t excel at everything and be our best all the time. Sometimes we make mistakes or experience a failure of some sort. If your child is feeling down, encourage them to view mistakes as learning opportunities. What do they think went wrong? How can they improve or act differently to have a more positive outcome next time?

​Growing up is about making mistakes and learning from them. It’s how you progress. Let your teen know you’re proud of them for trying and for learning from their mistake.

Self-esteem is very important and we all want our teens to grow into adults who think positively about themselves and can be happy with their place in the world. With these tips, you’re sure to get your teen off to the best possible start.

March 1st, 2018

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Develop Your Teenager’s Moral Code

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”[/pullquote]

Your teenage son or daughter is bombarded with influences from more sources than any generation before them. Consider just a handful of the influences teens are faced with:

  • School friends, peers and faculty
  • Neighbourhood friends
  • Celebrity influences like musicians, internet celebrities and others in the media spotlight
  • Community leaders and laggards
  • Romantic interests
  • Siblings, extended family and you…their parents
  • Employers at part­-time jobs, or sports coaches and teammates

You likely feel like you’re fighting a losing battle sometimes when you are trying to influence your teen’s choices as they mature. There may be times when you feel like throwing in the towel, but short term perseverance will lead to long term gain.

Here’s how to become the role model, guide and confidant your teen needs you to be.

Tailor Your Approach

It’s likely you get no end of advice from your own friends, parents and social circles on how to best nurture your teen’s moral compass. Take the advice with appreciation, but act in the best interests of your family’s long term happiness. Adolescent men and women respond differently to different approaches, and they’ll evolve over time.

The more opportunities you can take to get your teen to unplug, unwind, and speak their mind openly, the better chance you will have to succeed. Avoid being confrontational, or judgemental with your son or daughter. It may cause them to retreat and stifle communication, especially if they suffer from insecurity or shyness.

Don’t be a Buddy or a Taskmaster

Striking the right balance between disciplinarian and pal takes work. You might miss the years when your child was a toddler or pre­teen, when their dilemmas were simpler, and they were less rebellious and filled with roaring hormones. You have to have be there to reward your teen when they follow the right path, but be willing to show measured discipline when they don’t.

Here are some elements of your personality which you’ll want to leverage most:

  • Your sense of humour ­ about yourself, and life lessons
  • Patience and forgiveness
  • Adaptability and having an open mind
  • Fortitude to deliver consequences and reward consistently and as deserved

There are going to be times when your teen will try your patience. As parents, you want to show a united front when guiding your son and or daughter through their teen years, in good times and bad. If your teen sees Mom and Dad as being in different camps, they could play one side against the other.

Know When to Lead, Observe and/or Insert Yourself

There are some case where you need to trust your teen to try something, and succeed or fail. Allowing a teen to test boundaries is often better than sheltering them from the consequences making mistakes. If they want to try something that is:

  • Legal and moral
  • Won’t break the rules of their social sphere
  • Doesn’t cause long­term, negative consequences

Build their trust by letting your teen exercise some independence, but be prepared to support them if they fail without judgement. The teen years are a pivotal time for every person’s development to independence, and you need to know when to take off the training wheels.

In terms of friends, both of the same and opposite sex, it’s especially important to create an environment where your teen is comfortable introducing you to their friends. Creating tension when a friend is around could drive some relationships “underground”, and you’ll lose your opportunity to be an influence should relationships get toxic.

Do your best to have relationships in your own life which set a good example for how to treat friends and loved ones. Whether Mom and Dad are together or separated/divorced, the best gift you can give to your child is to have as much friendly, positive communication in their lives as possible. A reasonable amount of respect goes a long way to building your teen’s confidence and trust.

Parenting expert, Dr. Ron Taffel said of parenting teens,

Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”

Though it’s tempting to steer your teen towards the smoothest, least travelled roads in life, sometimes you have to let them get a few flat tires and scratched fenders along the road to a responsible adulthood.

June 6th, 2017

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