How to help a child with anxiety about standardized test taking?
At my daughter's school in California, today is the first day of STAR testing (standardized testing). This morning she said to me, "Mommy, I'm really nervous." I re-assured her that she didn't need to worry, to just do her best. I wonder if there's anything else I can say or do to help my daughter with her test anxiety? We're following the school's advice to make sure that she gets plenty of rest and nutrition this week, as well as making sure that we aren't rushed in getting to school. What else can we do?
Test anxiety is common at every age and with standardized testing beginning in elementary school, unfortunately even our little ones are confronting it! Here are a few more tips to reinforce and build on what the school has recommended:
1. Sleep is very important: kids that are tired experience greater levels of stress--both emotionally and even physiologically. Stress increases nervousness and test anxiety. Make sure your child is getting at least eight or more hours of sleep every night (this is true, not only during test-taking times!)
2. The recommendation to not rush is also a great one: when you rush to school, you've already increased your child's stress level so she is beginning the day at a heightened level of anxiety and worry. Wake up a few minutes earlier, organize backpacks and clothes the night before and keep the routine going, so that the morning moves along smoothly and everyone gets to school with no yelling, fighting or pressure.
3. Don't talk about the test except in positive terms. Help your child understand that this is not important in any way that will impact on her future. Explain that it is only one test and that no matter how important the school has made it seem, one test isn't that important and you will not feel any different about your child no matter how she does on the test. Explain that the job of tests is to help us see which things we are good at and which things we need to keep working on, that's it. We don't have to worry about the 'grade' we get on them.
4. Explain that she should focus on one problem at a time and do the ones she knows first, skipping the harder ones and come back to them later. If she really doesn't know one, don't worry about it--everyone will miss some of them, not just her.
5. Tell her that it's normal to be a little bit worried--everyone is and it is to be expected.
Good wishes and Great parenting!
Dr. Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"
I would tell your daughter that the STAR test is good practice for test taking in general, and a great chance to practice her test skills (allotting enough time to finish, coming back to questions she's unsure of later, mnemonic devices, relaxing, etc.). I would also tell her not to worry about it too much, because while she should try her best the tests don't have negative effects if she under performs. While your daughter will receive very comprehensive test results, the results do not matter academically and are used as a gauge as to how her school is preforming as a whole, not her as an individual.