Today’s kids are under a lot of pressure. From having the perfect grades to being the best pianist, children have a lot on their plate. One of the biggest areas we see this in is high-stakes testing. Standardized tests are an oft-debated topic (even amongst educators) and a source of frustration for students and parents alike. They often induce anxiety and fear in students. Many parents report that their children seem aloof, exhausted, and cranky during the common testing periods in the spring. As a former early childhood educator and current homeschooling mother, as well as children’s yoga teacher, my colleagues and I have been researching and observing ways to help our children cope, especially with the anxiety they feel around the subject of testing and the power it yields to impede not only performance, but happiness.
There are a plethora of yoga practices you could encourage your children to utilize to prepare for testing and obtain their highest scores. While that can be helpful and is important, it is just a piece of the puzzle. Many yoga students know that yoga is all-encompassing; that it is a frame of mind and body. How does this correlate to tests? Well, as they say, practice makes perfect. Practice your yoga poses with intent beyond better scores. In other words, begin practicing nonattachment. As one of the eight limbs, the yama aparagriha (nonattachment) is about letting go. While I am in no way suggesting that you forgo studies, schoolwork, and focused attention to subject matter, it is important to help your child let go of how their scores relate to their value as a person. Realizing that effort, persistence, and enjoyment of learning (not grades and test scores) are cornerstone to school success is the first step in letting go…and in reducing anxiety.
Meditation gives the power to the student to set their own goals and form their own coping skills, thereby strengthening their self-efficacy, another tool in reducing their anxiety. Studies consistently demonstrate the power of yoga and its ability to embolden students while having the nice side effect of upping scores. If teaching/practicing meditation is difficult for you, try the following guided meditation which your student can use months (even seconds) before their big test!
1. Take a comfortable seat.
2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in
3. Imagine you are on a big, fluffy cloud amongst many other clouds
4. Notice the shape of all the other clouds and appreciate their individual beauty
5. One by one, breathe each cloud away, wishing them well. Focus your breath and mind on each cloud slowly drifting away, until your left with only your cloud. Notice how it looks. Notice how it feels. It’s a soft and warm cloud. Stay here on your cloud.
6. Slowly allow your cloud to lower to the ground. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, wish your cloud well and send it back into the sky. Watch it drift upward and know that you can return to your cloud high above if you need.
7. Breathe in and out and open your eyes. You are now ready to put your feet on the ground and face any challenge! (follow with confidence-boosting songs and poses if time allows!)