Adolescence is a difficult stage of development for our children to go through, but why do some children cope better than others? The short answer is resilience. When asked about resilience principal clinical psychologist of GroupWorx Psychology, Stefanie Schwartz said,

“Resilience is a word that is commonly used today but is still often misunderstood. The idea of building resilience in your child is building your child’s ability to adapt well; whether it be to minor changes or more significant sources of stress.”

Photo credit: .bravelittlebird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: .bravelittlebird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It is sadly not an uncommon occurrence as a high school teacher to be confidentially informed about the fragile mental state of several of your students. Severe depression, anxiety and lack of confidence are becoming more and more common epidemics for our young people today. As a maths teacher it is difficult to see bright, intelligent students crumble when faced with stressful changes in circumstances, such as more demanding course work and regular, rigorous assessments, which they did not face in primary school. We hear about many adolescents who find the transition from primary school to high school very challenging. In the classroom I would see it every day, year after year. Children, who were in ‘extension’ maths in primary school, were now barely able to score over 50% in their maths tests. These children are not unintelligent, although they very soon come to think that they are. Previously very happy, well-adjusted children are losing confidence in their abilities, they no longer enjoy school and are at risk of severe depression and anxiety.

Schwartz says,

“psychological research has suggested that resilience can actually act as a buffer against the development of anxiety and depression in children.”

It’s worth pausing to read that sentence again. Building resilience in your child is actually a preventative measure against depression and anxiety.

Schwartz recommends these tips to build resilience in your child:

  1. Set achievable goals
  2. Nurture positive self-view and self-confidence
  3. Give ample opportunity for success.

Schwartz goes on to say that,

“anticipating potential sources of anxiety, stress and sadness (for example test taking situations) and planning ahead will assist your child tremendously.”

teenager taking test

Photo credit: cybrarian77 / Foter / CC BY-NC

Simulating test conditions at home and allowing your child  to gain a familiarity to the experience will help them to build resilience to the pressure. By recreating the environment of an assessment your child will build up resilience to working under these more stressful conditions and be better prepared when faced with tests at school.

At Education Equals we have practice test resources, which allow parents to do exactly this with your child at home. They come complete with video solutions so that after your child has completed the assessment you can watch the video solutions and mark their work together. These tests serve as an excellent educational experience, are great preparation for assessments, but more importantly, they offer the opportunity to build resilience to test pressure.

“Allowing your child the opportunity to simulate the potential stressor with a positive outcome will invariably increase self-confidence and build resilience at the same time”, advises Schwartz.

Recognising that school and assessments are necessary but can be stressful, while also preparing your child for these pressures, is not wrapping your child in cotton wool. It is not eliminating the obstacle but rather working with your child to build the skills and tools they need to deal with the obstacle.

We’d like to thank Stefanie Schwartz for sharing her expert opinion and advice on the issue with our community. Stefanie is passionate about helping young people deal with depression and anxiety and she has extensive experience in that area. An expert in her field, it is a privilege to have her discuss these issues with us.

Please share with us, in the comments below, any other ways you have helped your child deal with test anxiety and build resilience to cope with all the pressures of adolescence.  If you know someone who you think could benefit from reading this article please email or message them a link to it. Test anxiety is a real thing but there are ways to help children build resilience to the pressure. For more advice from Schwartz please visit www.GroupWorx.com.au or  www.facebook.com/GroupWorxPsychology.

Photo credit: marsmet545 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA