What happens in the mind and body of a child facing an exam? Diana Todeancă: "This is what we, as parents, unfortunately, do wrong!"

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What happens in the mind and body of a child facing an exam? Diana Todeancă: "This is what we, as parents, unfortunately, do wrong!" / PHOTO: freepik.com @freepik
What happens in the mind and body of a child facing an exam? Diana Todeancă: "This is what we, as parents, unfortunately, do wrong!" / PHOTO: freepik.com @freepik

Psychotherapist Diana Todeancă spoke on "Present Parents" about what happens in the mind and body of a child facing an exam. 

Diana Todeancă emphasized that the dominant emotion in such situations is anxiety.

"There is a certain emotion we experience when we have an exam or something to present: anxiety. We Romanians say 'we have emotions' and don't label them.

I think the first thing we can do with our children is to explain that it's about anxiety", said the psychotherapist on "Present Parents", a program by ParintisiPitici.ro.

The expert went on to clarify the nature of anxiety. "Anxiety is that emotion in the face of a possible danger. Sort of like fear. It resembles fear, sometimes we say it like this: 'Oh, I'm so scared because I have a test/essay tomorrow'", Diana Todeancă added.

The psychotherapist emphasized the importance of understanding and managing this emotion: "Anxiety is very similar to fear. I call it Fear's younger sister. It's about learning to manage it."

Diana Todeancă: "In front of an exam, all children have emotions, all children have anxiety!"

Psychotherapist Diana Todeancă highlighted the importance of understanding fear and anxiety in children's lives.

"To help parents understand better, I would like to talk a bit about fear and its role in our lives and why it's beneficial", the expert said, initiating a discussion about the evolutionary roots of this emotion.

"If we think back, fear was the emotion that kept us safe, and it still does. It protects us from dangers. Think about the times when people went hunting and faced a wild animal—they needed clear bodily reactions to danger.

We either fight it, flee from it, or there's a third response: freeze. That means if I can neither fight nor flee, maybe because it's a bear, freezing might be an option that could help me", Diana Todeancă added.

"I mentioned that anxiety is fear's younger sister. Our body's reactions are pretty much the same as with fear. However, with anxiety, the real danger isn't right in front of us; we don't see it. We haven't encountered the wild animal; instead, it's a projection of our minds, a possibility, an imaginary danger that may or may not happen", the expert further elaborated.

In the context of school exams, the psychotherapist emphasized how intense this anxiety can be: "The exam is a looming danger, a situation that could bring significant disadvantages if something goes wrong. And so, these reactions appear in our bodies."

"We need to understand that all children have emotions, all children have anxiety in front of an exam. Some know how to name and identify it, others may not. Perhaps the reason our parents' generation didn't talk about it was because we didn't know what it was called and what it meant. We would say 'We have emotions,' and they would say 'It's normal, it will pass!'"

Anxiety is within each of us

Psychotherapist Diana Todeancă provided valuable tools to parents to identify signs of anxiety in their children, especially during stressful periods like exams.

"We all need to understand that anxiety is within each of us, including children, from a very young age.

You know those very young children who hide behind their mother when they meet someone new?

Well, it's not shame as we might think, but it's anxiety: 'I don't know this person, I'm not sure about this relationship, it's better to protect myself.'

This is the message our body sends us in the face of a potential danger", the expert asserts.

Therapist Todeancă: "We must give children the chance to express it, not invalidate the emotion"

The therapist emphasized the importance of open dialogue with children to help them recognize and share their emotions.

"To observe anxiety in our children, we need to talk to them about it so they can recognize it in themselves and share it.

We must give children the chance to express themselves, not invalidate their emotions.

Unfortunately, as parents, this is what we do, and we do it wrong. 'There's no need to be afraid! You're a smart kid, you've studied a lot, there's no need to be afraid! You don't need to stress, just relax!' This approach never works!" Diana Todeancă further added.

Diana Todeancă: "Anxiety manifests in many ways, differently from child to child"

Anxiety can manifest in various ways in children, from physical symptoms like sweaty palms or digestive issues to agitated, violent behaviors, or insomnia. Diana Todeancă urged parents to be attentive to these signals and to engage in repeated discussions with their children in different contexts.

"Anxiety manifests in many ways, differently from child to child. Some may sweat palms, others may have stomach discomfort, some may struggle to sleep, and others may exhibit agitated, violent behaviors, becoming more nervous. It's our duty as parents to observe and determine if this is the case.

We need to ask the child multiple times, in various contexts, because they might not say it outright! Let's talk before bedtime when things are calm and when we have a chance to get their honesty", the expert further emphasized.

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Autorul articolului: Loredana Iriciuc | Categorie: English

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