It’s that wonderful time of year: standardized tests. The flowers are blooming and the snow is melting, yet your child is wracked with test anxiety, and possibly you are as well. PARCC is leaving but not just yet. There will be more standardized tests in your child’s future: SATs, ACTs, and possibly GREs for graduate school. Here are 5 healthy habits that will help defeat test anxiety.
Make a Routine
Everyone’s schedule is crazy. There is school, soccer practice, piano lessons, karate class, birthdays, holidays, family events, etc. There always seems to be a reason why homework is not getting done however, homework and studying need to be a priority. Set a time every day to do homework and studying for exams. It needs to be consistent so there is no wondering if there will be enough time to prepare for the exam. Depending on your child’s age and their school work load, they should be sitting down at the same time, and preferably at the same spot, every day for a half hour to an hour. Do not let the excuse of “he didn’t have enough time to study” be what holds your child back. If there is a scheduling conflict, baring medical or family emergency, put school work and study time as a top priority.
Healthy Habits Start With Healthy Kids
Having a good night sleep and a strong breakfast should not be just a test day practice. When kids are physically healthy, they are more mentally prepared for tests and other stressors. Kids in good health experience less anxiety in school and on tests on average. Let your child get a full night’s sleep every night and have a healthy, tasty breakfast as much as possible. Make sure they exercise and play outside whenever possible. Encouraging healthy habits will follow them in school as well. Sometimes tests are taken in the afternoon so it is important that your child eats a healthy lunch of protein and vegetables, whether they bring the meal from home or eat the school’s lunch. The nutrition gained from their lunch will fuel them and give them energy to keep going throughout the day.
Read for Fun
The best readers read for fun. Children who read for fun develop higher comprehension and analytical skills. Not everything your child reads has to be nonfiction and educational texts. Does your child enjoy The Adventures of Percy Jackson or A Wrinkle in Time? Even if the book is below the reading level for your child, they are reading for fun which you should always encourage.
“You think this is stressful? Wait until you have a family to take care of and bills to pay.” No, absolutely not. Do not belittle your child’s anxieties and fears. This may be the first time they’ve experienced anxiety and stress on a level they could not handle. Is paying the mortgage and making sure the fridge is stocked and basically raising a family stressful? Yes, but your child does not know that, nor should they. All they know is what they’ve experienced. We can all agree that test anxiety is very unpleasant and can have terrible consequences if not dealt with. Shutting down your child’s legitimate fears as nothing important will lead to more harmful outcomes such as chronic depression and anxiety disorders.
Talk About the Anxiety
Let your child know it is okay to have anxiety about school and talk about it with them. When parents take the time to listen to what is upsetting their child, be it in school or not, they are better able to offer help and their child feels appreciated. Bonds of trust and support are built this way. Furthermore, creating these mindful moments, by talking about anxieties with your child, allows them to really understand their emotions and better relate to others. It is also very helpful when your kids see that you can relate to their situation. Remember when you were in school preparing for exams? You might have had pressures from your school, family, or even yourself. It was probably a very stressful time and you needed help to get through it. Letting your child know that you’ve been where they are now is extremely helpful. Let them know it’s okay to feel anxious and that it is even very normal to feel it. This will really help them handle these test anxieties.
These steps can make a huge difference for your child when it comes to testing time. It is important to remember though; PARCC and other standardized tests are just tests. The only thing you and your child should ask of these tests is if they did their best. The rest is relative. The test does not define your child. Your child is also a bright, loving, and engaged child. They are more than an exam.