Mathew’s parents came to see me at DM’s Laval office because he was getting into trouble at school: He was walking out of class, refusing to do tests, and, to his parents’ horror, was rude to the principal… this is not the Matt they know and love.

Their Matt is an average student who works hard for his grades. His teachers have always commented on how kind and respectful he is, and how much effort he puts into anything he works on. The side of Matt he does not show them is how hard he is on himself when he doesn’t get the marks he wants. On days when there’s a test, he wakes up feeling sick: he spends so much time in the washroom that he misses the bus… and the arguments begin. By the time his parents get him in the car, the tension between them is awful. Afterwards he comes home and says he’s stupid… this just breaks his parents’ heart.

Matt’s response to avoiding tests, and the uncomfortable sensations in his body, makes sense to him. To be fair, avoiding something that makes us uncomfortable makes sense to most of us too sometimes ! Matt really believed the situation was hopeless - that he would always “blank out”. But like many youth who don’t yet have the needed skills to defeat anxiety, Matt was unaware that with the right tools he could work through the discomfort and calm his anxious brain. So following a quick trip to the pediatrician to ensure that he’s healthy, a courageous journey began. The plan had two parts: Giving him tools to respond to stress in a healthy and constructive way, and improving his organizational and study skills so he could be more successful at school. Now Mathew is more resilient and better able to cope with whatever life sends his way.

Here are some strategies that can help:

NORMALIZING STRESS: We all have some; it’s a normal everyday occurrence. A common trap is to tell our children “don’t worry”: it’s far more effective to say “It’s normal to worry before a test/presentation/game/etc, I do too”.

REDUCE STRESS: By various techniques, including: mindfulness, breathing, visualizations, music, or talking to a trusted adult. Equally important are sleep, diet, and exercise, which increase our brains’ ability to focus and process information, as well as having a good life balance, including “down time”.

ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS TRAINING: Youth can learn concrete strategies to take charge of school work, projects, and learning how to study for exams. These types of programs have been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression in children, teens, and young adults - and benefit youth by promoting self-confidence and emotional resilience that can last a lifetime. Contact DM for more information: Together we can make a difference !

For youth who may need more support, consulting with a therapist using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help.