Earlier this week, as I pulled up to the pick up line at his elementary school, I could tell that “A” wasn’t happy. Normally he’s looking out for me with a wide smile or chatting with his buddies, but today, he looked like he had a rough day. When he got in the car, he almost going to burst into tears, “Mom, I’m so stressed!” he told me. On the ride home, he explained that he scored a 78 on a math test that he thought he had done better on, was told that they were having a science test the next day…and a math quiz…and he needed to start to study for a spelling test on Friday. And on Monday, they would take some practice tests for the Common Core tests that they would be taking in the spring.
No wonder. Test,test, test = stressed out kids. Clearly, he was overwhelmed with the number of tests and feeling pressured. “Breathe and prioritize,” I told him. “Let’s focus on what you can work on now, and then we can prioritize your studying for the rest of the week.” We got through it (today is the spelling test and he feels confident that he’ll ace it). But with all the testing, pressure and stress that upper elementary, middle and high school kids are under, there have to be ways to help them handle it.
I did some research and found a few tips that can help to relieve stress in kids:
1) Let kids be kids – let them run around like maniacs and play. Letting them get their energy out in silly, fun ways is probably the best stress relief. While other scheduled activities like a yoga or karate class are great physical exercise, it’s not the same as just letting kids go outside and run around, ride their bikes, or shoot hoops. Unscheduled, unstructured time is essential.
2) Allow them to express their anxiety – Don’t brush off their experience. Let them share their feelings in an open and honest way. Even if there’s nothing you can do to help, hearing your empathy and feeling that you care and will listen helps tremendously.
3) Help them problem solve – While you can’t absolve them from taking the test, you can help them to prepare by helping them to study or brainstorming ideas for projects and reports. Don’t do the work, but offer helpful suggestions or ways to lighten the load.
4) Focus on the positive and past success – Build their confidence by reflecting on their past success. Point out that they have taken this type of test before and did well, or learned some test taking skills that they will be able to use. Get your child to look at the glass as half full, instead of half empty. Remind them that they know this material and by studying, they will only become more confident in their knowledge.
5) Tell them it’s ok to be imperfect – This is a tough one for some kids who are harder on themselves than their parents will ever be (I’m speaking from experience here). When you have a kid who strives for 100% all the time, even a 90 can be a let down. Let your child know that NO ONE, not even Einstein got 100% all the time. Let him or her know that one bad grade will not devastate his academic career and, most of all, you love him regardless of his grade.
Fingers crossed for today’s spelling test!