Signs of spring are everywhere: Daffodils, robins and school testing.
As local teachers and students begin to brace themselves for this spring rite of passage, parents may find themselves wondering how to best guide their children through test anxiety. Whether it is passing the Third Grade Reading Guarantee or just trying to match the results of your peer group, kids may have trouble keeping the tests in perspective.
Dr. Katrina Lindsay, PhD, NCSP, a clinical psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist and the director of the School Success Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital, offers some tips to help your children preserve their mental health as they face the big tests.
Teach your child how to ground themselves.
“Before the testing time starts, have the child ‘check in’ with their five senses (what am I seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching?) as a way to come back into their body and out of their brain, which might be full of a lot of worry thoughts,” suggests Dr. Lindsay.
Children feel and perform their best when they are getting the recommended sleep for their age group. Sleep health is cumulative, so just one night of good sleep may not be enough.
“Start the week before the testing and get back into a bedtime routine so that they aren’t suddenly trying to go to bed early the night before,” Dr. Lindsay said. “Make the room quiet and dark, with no cellular distractions.”
If worry seems to be disturbing your child’s sleep patterns, address their anxiety and give kids strategies to help them cope.
“Teach them to leave their test worry thoughts at the door,” Dr. Lindsay said. “Maybe even tape an envelope to the bedroom door, have the child write their worry thought down and put it in the envelope. That is where it stays for the night.”
Put inspiring quotes in the child’s lunch bag the week leading up and the day of the test.
“I like this one: ‘Don’t stress, do your best, forget the rest!’” Dr. Lindsay recommends more inspiring quotes can be found on Seventeen.com.
Find an empowering song to play every day leading up to the big test.
“Let this song be the child’s ‘theme song’ as they go into testing,” said Dr. Lindsay. “I used this song myself when I had to take the state licensing test.”
“Do something fun after the test. Get ice cream. Go to a movie,” said Dr. Lindsay. “Do something right after school that is active and brings joy so that your child doesn’t sit and ruminate about answers they may have gotten wrong.”
And no matter what the grade is, remember to always tell your child how proud you are of them, and that your pride and love is never contingent upon a grade or score.
“Even if they didn’t do as good as was necessary, commend them on concrete behaviors,” said Dr. Lindsay. “Not just ‘good job’, but something concrete, such as you ‘loved how they went into the test with a positive attitude’ or that you ‘loved how they were able to stay seated and focused for that period of time’ or that you ‘are proud of how they improved on their math score from testing last year.’”
For more ideas on how to help kids cope, check out these resources on our website.