#gettingreadyforchange: A one-day workshop coming to Georgetown!

My colleague, Uresha Salgado, and I are VERY excited to host our first workshop in the Georgetown area!

On Tuesday, August 14th, we will be having a one-day workshop for students transitioning from grade 8 to high school and are feeling worried or nervous about this change.  It will be a supportive group that will explore, process, and work through some of the common worries that occur during this time.

If you know of anyone in the Georgetown area that may benefit from this program, or for more information, contact me.  Depending on the number of referrals, there also may be a possibility to extend to another day at the end of August.

summer group flyer

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It’s Exam Time!

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With the end of the school year approaching, there is always excitement about summer vacation.  But with this, is the seemingly gigantic obstacle that needs to be overcome before the bliss of sunny days and freedom: exams.  Your teen may be experiencing some anxiety about this time of the year because of the cumulative projects and upcoming exams.  You may see more irritability or expressions of stress and frustration rise in their words and their behaviour. Just remember that it’s only temporary and once that final exam is completed, the excitement of summer will return!

During this time, I always try to remind myself when working with my teenage clients that it can be a very stressful time.  I try to incorporate strategies to help in managing test anxiety, whether or not they believe they experience it. So, I wanted to share a few main points that I find to be helpful with surviving exam time:

1. Studying requires breaks! Our brains can only retain a certain amount of information before it begins to shut down on its own.  Therefore, even though we are entering into our third hour of studying, the likelihood of remembering is quite low.  So take those breaks to give your poor brain a rest, please.

2. When we “blank out” during exams, it is usually not because we are unprepared.  It is usually because our anxiety is so high that it is interfering with our ability to remember.  If this is the case, it is important to enter the exam environment in a calmer state.  Right before the exam, put away the notes (you’re not going to learn anything new in the next few minutes) and focus on relaxation.  Sit and listen to your favourite song, sketch in your sketchbook that you haven’t used in a while, watch a television show.  Bring your anxiety down from a 10 to a 7. It will make a big difference.

3. Try to reframe your thoughts if they are negative.  If you think that you are going to fail, remind yourself of the good (or “okay”) marks you have received in this class so far this semester. Instead of focusing on what you still don’t understand, think of the things that you studied and know backwards and forwards.  If you think that it will be a long and grueling process, remind yourself that you will be on summer vacation in less than a week.  This time tomorrow, this class will be done and over!

4. Before you start writing anything down on your exam, read over all of the questions and take a deep and slow breath. Exhale all of the worries and remember all of the work that you have put forth to get there.

5. Get a good night’s sleep and eat something small before the exam.  Fatigue and exhaustion will make it very difficult to focus, formulate your thoughts, understand the questions, etc.

6. Once the exam is over, IT IS OVER. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the questions and whether or not you got this one right or that one wrong.  Leave it in the classroom and take the night off if you can by doing something enjoyable.

7. If you feel panicked or anxious before your exam, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel this way.  It may not mean that it is because you are going to fail. But it is definitely a reflection of your desire to do well, which means it is important to you.

Below is a link to a pdf file that has a lot of helpful strategies to prepare for exams and write them.  I give this to my clients all the time, even if they are not worried about their exams.

https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Test_Anxiety_Booklet.pdf

Good luck to all and I hope this post was helpful to you!!

Dealing with “Starting-high-school” Worries

Every year, beginning around April or May, many of my young clients express worries and fears about starting high school in the following year.  This feeling can be described as a general worry, but can escalate to crippling fear and panic.

There are many reasons why this fear and worry is understandable.  It involves transitioning from the oldest in elementary school to the youngest in a larger, more intimidating school environment.  Socially, high school amalgamates several elementary and middle school classes into one gigantic grade 9 class, filled with unfamiliar people.  Some of my clients also worry about the perceived increase in difficulty level of school work and expectations.  And even though grade 9 is the beginning of high school, it sometimes symbolizes that need to confirm long-term goals, which can include university or college programs and future careers.

On a more personal level, I empathize with my young clients because the frame of reference that they have regarding high school is a lot more darker and surreal than what I was exposed to when I was transitioning.  I was bombarded by the bright colours and cheerful casts of shows like “Saved by the Bell”, “Boy Meets World”, “Full House”, and “Beverly Hills, 90210”.  Now, high school series show more mature themes, such as “Pretty Little Liars”, “Riverdale” and “13 Reasons Why”.  It is no wonder that some of our young ones are more nervous about this major life change!

When supporting youth through this time, I found the following things helpful and they may be helpful for you when talking to your teen:

  1. Normalize how they are feeling.  “I am sure that a large percentage of soon-to-be grade 9 students are experiencing similar fears and worries”.  Remind your teen that uncertainty and unfamiliar situations are always worrisome until they become more predictable and familiar.  This will take some time.  It is also okay to remind your teen that there are some experiences in life that cannot be avoided and this may be one of them.  Challenging our fears can teach us about our resiliency and our ability to adapt to new and different surroundings.
  2. Focus on balanced thinking.  “In addition to the things that worry you about high school, what are some of the things that you are excited about?”  This could include meeting new people, joining clubs and extra-curricular activities, having their own locker, etc.
  3. Process specific worries.  “What is the worst case scenario that you are worried about?  Let’s find some strategies that may be helpful if this happens.  What is the likelihood that this will happen anyways?”
  4. Connect your youth with appropriate supports.  Some schools are now hosting “orientation” weeks that allow grade 9 students to acclimate to their new surroundings and get used to the new routines and structures.  Participating in these programs may help in familiarizing themselves with their high school.
  5. Talk about it.  Even when your child says, “I don’t want to talk about it. It makes me nervous”, remind him or her that the more he or she talks about it, the less scary the topic may become.  Obviously, you don’t want to force your child to talk about it, but engaging in small dialogues about things that are exciting about high school may make it less daunting.
  6. Remind ourselves that of the social pressures that we may not understand, especially if we went to high school without social media, cell phones, the internet, and super-sized high schools.  High school is definitely a different experience now than when I was a teenager a very, VERY, long time ago, and I am okay with admitting that I may not fully understand the new pressures that our youth today have to face.  But I am also confident that with many of our youth, the passage of time and the support from others can make a positive difference when making this transition.

Here are some other helpful articles that may be of some use:

“Starting High School” – http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/starting-high-school.html

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=243&np=295&id=2196

Helping Your Teen Adjust – http://www.drpaul.com/adolescent/highschool.php