A recent study found that the average child takes over 100 standardized tests from pre-k through the rest of their educational years. For many, that means 100 nail-biting opportunities for children as young as four to get stressed the heck out. Under pressure, from organizations like Let Kids Be Kids, the UK has recently started measures to do away with standardized tests like the SAT, because of how they adversely affect both students and teachers. But alas, for us in the states, standardized tests are here to stay, at least for the time being. This month, we will be discussing some stress management strategies for both you and your child to make test-taking healthier, and maybe even a bit happier too.
Perspective is Everything
Not everyone experiences stress before test taking. You remember that kid in your class who was always preternaturally chill, got good grades on everything, and seemingly glided through life on a metaphorical Disney float? While they do exist, if your child is NOT one of these unicorns of the human world, in addition to making yourself available for study help, talk to them. Encourage your child to discuss their hopes and fears. What is the worst that could happen if they do badly on the test? The best that could happen if they ace it? Having an open and honest discussion about the real immediate and life-long consequences of the result of that particular test will help put things in perspective, and reduce anxiety for both of you.
Recognize the Signs
It is helpful for both parents and kids to recognize the signs of test anxiety. They can include, dry mouth, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, mental blackouts and trouble concentrating. We know you can’t be with your child in the testing room, but discuss these symptoms with them beforehand, and remind them that there are some simple practices they can employ to calm down and get through it. Chewing gum is a simple stress reducer, as is slowing down and taking their time with each question. Telling your child to check in with their breath will help refocus the mind, as will simply taking a break to stare at the ceiling and remember the discussion the two of you had about how this one test will actually affect their life.
There are no two ways about it, stress stinks. It gets in the way of how our minds and bodies function, and over time can cause both physical and psychological damage. Despite the unnecessary amount of testing and pressure that is put on our young people these days, an ulcer just isn’t worth a perfect score. So, while we wait for our country to catch up to our friends in the UK, let’s all just take a breath and remind both ourselves and our kids that though it’s important to study and be prepared, test scores aren’t everything. You’ll get into the college you’re meant to get into, life is a winding road no matter what, and after high school, no one cares what anyone got on their SATs.