Losing sleep over standardized tests used to be something college-bound teenagers did. Now kids as young as 8 get panicky. All this agita stems from a federal law requiring public schools to give their students in grades 3 through 8 tests in math and English to make sure they’re reaching certain educational benchmarks. While some students don’t think twice about test days, others get seriously rattled. The pressure can affect their scores, and many kids complain about headaches, chest pains, and stomachaches.
These tips can soothe test-day jitters and help every child feel calmer, sleep better, and perform their best on the big day.
- Put it in perspective. To gauge your child’s state of mind, ask how they are feeling about the test, suggests Dr. Bailey. If they are fine, move on. But if they are jittery, say, ‘”This is just a way to see if the kids in your school are learning everything they need to know.” You can also point out that the test score is just a small piece that makes up who they are, along with their sense of humor and drawing chops.
- Tweak bedtime. For your child to get a full night’s sleep the night before the test, they have to have a good routine going now. If not, “make sure homework gets done right after school, and move dinner to an earlier time,” says Grolnick.
THE WEEK BEFORE:
- Pump up the energy. Add some fun physical activities, like a family bike ride in the late afternoon or some drop-in karate classes. They’ll help your child snooze better at night. Plus, they will produce feel-good endorphins that can relieve stress and boost positive energy, notes Dr. Bailey.
- Relax and have fun. Cramming vocab or practicing division problems isn’t going to calm your kid down — or even help them do better, says Dr. Bailey. Instead, plan something that will take everyone’s mind off the test, like family game night or a pizza party. A healthy snack an hour before bedtime and a soothing bath will help them nod off.
- Fill her up. Start the day off right by serving up a morning meal of complex carbs and protein, says Dr. Bailey. Greek yogurt with fresh (or frozen) fruit and honey or oatmeal with nuts are way better than sugary cereals, which can just cause your child to crash when they need energy the most.
- Be on time. Kids can get anxious about arriving late and then having to rush to prepare for the test, so set the alarm ten minutes early to get everyone out the door without last-minute chaos.
- Connect with a friend or teacher. Talking about pre-test jitters with a teacher or a close pal can be a good way to chill. “Not only will it make your child feel less isolated, but it’ll release some of the nerves they may have,” says Dr. Bailey.
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