Some parents have expressed concerns that their children (and themselves) are experiencing some anxiety about the upcoming tests in Math and English for 3rd-5th graders. First, it is important to clarify that too much emphasis is being placed on the importance of these tests. Anxiety can take many forms. According to the NYU Child Studies Center, in its most overt form, some students report physical symptoms including trouble sleeping, butterflies, cold or clammy hands, headaches, nausea, being hot or cold, or feeling faint. Others report feeling like they want to cry or feel angry or helpless. If you or your child is feeling anxious, we wanted to offer some tips to help reduce test anxiety. Even if your child has not expressed concern, it can be helpful to ask about how they feel about the upcoming tests and intervene accordingly if they express concern.
If your child is expressing concern leading up to the test, there are some things to help them manage their anxiety.
- The best advice you can ever give them is to let them know “as long as they try their best, nothing else matters.”
- Reinforce that schoolwork/homework throughout the year has been designed to prepare them for the test, so they are more prepared than they think.
- If they start to get into a negative thought cycle of “what if I don’t know an answer” let them know its ok, no one expects you to know all the answers. You can also reframe the question for them by saying – “what if you know all the answers – what will you do then?” You can also justify that everyone feels uncertain when taking a test and having butterflies is normal.
- If your child feels unprepared or uncertain, highlight all the reasons way they are prepared. For example, they have gone to school and worked hard – which is exactly what they needed to do to prepare for the test.
- If your child is extremely anxious, teach them ways to relax through simple techniques such as slow breathing – in for 4 seconds – out for 4 seconds.
- Coaching your kids too much could backfire. It is always helpful to be involved, but don’t keep bringing it up. Doing other things they enjoy and highlighting how much control they have over their thoughts will empower them.
Below are some additional ways to support them the day before and the day of the test. Our goal is to help reduce anxiety and make them more resistant to getting overwhelmed on a testing day.
- Do not study the day before the test. Exercise is a great stress reliever and will help them get a good night’s sleep. Getting the proper amount of sleep is important (telling them that will not help them sleep, but rather just give them something else to stress about). Get them to bed on time.
- Have everything they need for the next day prepared the night before. This will help them feel more relaxed on the morning of the test.
- Have a nice big healthy breakfast (proteins are great) and get to school on time. Ideally get there early so your child has some time to run around. Exercise the day of the test will help reduce any anxiety they may have.
- When you pick them up after the test, remember they will have another one the next day. Ask – “how did you feel about the test” – rather than “how did you do on the test” – to avoid the focus on outcomes – remember – they do not know how they did.
- Then – do something fun with them! Enjoy life and your children. It will help both you and them relax and remember what is important in life.
For more information or if you have concerns that your child’s anxiety is affecting him/her negatively, please contact the guidance department for support.
The School Leadership Team