We know that SATs exams can be stressful not only for the child, but for the entire family and ultimately, all parents want is to make their child’s first real experience of exams as positive and calm as it can possibly be.
As a parent, there are several things that you can do with your child leading up to the day of their tests, on the day of their tests and afterwards to reassure them, minimise anxiety and help them stay calm. Many of these activities may seem obvious and simple, but each of them can make a difference. Check out our top ten tips below.
Children can be very sensitive to any signs of stress shown by their parents. Demonstrate how much confidence you have in them by refusing to panic. Praise them for all the hard work they have put in at school and at home and focus on making sure they are physically and mentally well prepared for the challenge they face. Top athletes reduce the intensity of their training sessions before a big competition to ensure they are rested and ready. Help your child take the same approach and ease off in the last days before their tests begin.
Praise and reward effort
Remind your child that doing their best is what matters and that you will be proud of them, whatever their exam results are.
Try a little light reading
If your child wants to keep revising try to guide them towards something helpful, low key and reassuring. Perhaps suggest some revision notes supplied by their teacher, or try one of the times tables game described in our previous blog.
Remember to breathe!
Talk about nerves and how to deal with them. Simply taking some deep breaths really will help. Explain that a high pulse rate, churning stomach and faster breathing are all physiological reactions to stress designed to enable us to run away fast. This ‘flight’ response is useful in some instances but is not helpful if the ‘threat’ is a test. Luckily we can outsmart these ancient responses by taking control of our breathing, deliberately slowing it down and sending a message to the brain that the danger is not real and there is no need to run. You can also encourage your child to tell themselves ‘This test will not eat me!’ and remind them that they are not being chased by a scary animal, as our ancestors might have been. The adrenaline rush that is part of our response to stress also interferes with our memory and our ability to read accurately. If your child gets stuck on a question they feel they should know encourage them to skip onto the next question and return later, when their nerves have settled and they are more likely to remember how to solve the problem. Teach them to read each question carefully, pointing to each word to ensure they do not miss out vital information, or using a ruler to guide their eyes and avoid skipping lines of text.
Eat well, drink water
You can also prepare your child leading up to the exam by ensuring you are looking after their basic needs. Provide your child with healthy foods, such as lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, keep your child hydrated by ensuring they drink plenty of water. Ensure your child has had a good breakfast on the morning of the test,as this will help to keep your child’s blood sugars levels up and aid their concentration.
Stick to routines
If your child thrives on having a routine and does not respond well to change, do your utmost to ensure that everything continues as normal in your household, from meal times to bath times. Make sure they get to bed calmly at a sensible time knowing that everything is ready for the morning (see below).
Get ready the night before!
If your child usually scrambles round in the morning finding homework and packing their bag this is one routine they would be well advised to break! Help them check that they have all of the equipment they will need. Make sure their pencils are sharpened and ready for use, make sure they have erasers and any other relevant equipment.
Set off in good time
Ensure that you have left plenty of time for the journey to school and if you have a long drive check traffic reports before you set off. Make sure you get your child to school on time and avoid adding to their stress (and yours) by running the risk of being late!
Ask ‘How did it go?’ and stay calm
You should ask your child how the exam went, how they feel and if they want to talk about it. Some children will not want to dissect the whole test and the most you will get may be a ‘fine’ or ‘rubbish’ or something in between. Some may get upset and begin to worry. Some may feel confident and talk you through the entire paper. Since nothing can be done to change the past the best approach can be to listen, to reassure and to remind them that if they have done their best they have done all that anyone could ask of them. Provide them with further reassurance that however the exam went, you are still proud of them and you know that they did their very best. Avoid pointing out errors or expressing any frustration you may feel if your child forgot something you felt they knew.
Celebrate their effort and the tests being over!
The final activity we would suggest is a small celebration; take your child somewhere they love to go or treat them to something they love. Show them that you are proud and reward them for the hard work they have put in!!
We have also come across this fun and useful guide on BBC Bitesize that you may like to give a try.