Along with spring showers and May flowers comes test-taking season at schools around the country. Be it standardized testing or final exams, anxiety runs high. For students in elementary school, this might be their first experience testing while older students may be more seasoned. Whatever stage your child is in, one thing is sure: it’s tough to be tested. A good night’s sleep and a healthy meal are a great way to start, but let’s explore the three T’s that provide children with the support they need during testing season.
Dinner time is a great way to provide an opportunity for children to process their day. Turning off the TV, silencing devices and sitting down at the table together creates a space for families to debrief. If things are slow to start, go around the table and share a sunshine (a highlight of the day or reason for gratitude) and a cloud (a challenge or time of discouragement.) Consider making the meal special by allowing your child to help plan the menu for the evening. Remember, sitting in silence is okay too. The act of being together is often enough to help your child feel loved and encouraged.
Learning to self-regulate during stressful events is just as important as being tested for knowledge. Identifying the physical responses to stress is a great way to start. That might sound like, “When you take your spelling test, where do you feel nervous?” Getting children to identify where they feel nervous (in their stomach, throat, hands, feet, etc.) is very helpful. It might take an example to help them understand such as, “When I’m nervous, I feel it in my stomach. It feels like butterflies are flying around in there.” Let them know that when feelings of stress arise, they can respond with self-soothing techniques. Breathing techniques are effective and produce fast results. Some examples include:
- Pretend to blow a bubble.
- Pretend to smell a rose with a deep breath in and a slow breath out.
- Breath in through your nose and fill up your lungs. Breath out through your mouth until your lungs are empty.
- Practice boxed breathing – inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, then repeat the process from the beginning.
Whether your child comes home confident in their performance or discouraged, filling their brain with encouraging phrases is helpful for modeling positive self-talk. This might include phrases such as:
- I knew you could do it!
- You can do hard things.
- I can see you tried hard.
- I’m so proud of you!
- You amaze me!
- You are learning and growing.
- I see you working and learning every day.
- Look how far you’ve come!
Seeing your child under any amount of stress can be difficult. By creating a safe place to debrief, teaching calming techniques and using the power of words to build self-esteem, we can provide a supportive environment for children to thrive. Happy testing!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Audrey Walker has served in a variety of early childhood and primary school settings for the past twelve years and has a deep passion for promoting the potential of all children. She earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Education from Concordia University Texas in 2009 and her Master’s of Arts in Education from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri in 2011 with an emphasis in gifted education. She is proud to be a Texas certified teacher (ece-4th grade).
As Campus Administrator, she is committed to the USAS teaching philosophy to provide academic excellence in a Christian environment, working with families and teachers to discover and develop each child’s unique gifts to their full potential. Her daily motivation is to see that every child is deeply valued, respected, and encouraged to become a life-long learner by finding joy in coming to school. A highlight of her job is seeing teachers and staff igniting children’s imaginations, provoking ideas, and encouraging problem-solving skills based on each child’s interests.
Audrey and her husband, Andrew, have three children, Lydia, August, and Lucas. They enjoy the simple things in life right now, going to the park, movie nights, reading, and all things Lego related.