Test Time Strategies For Parents
The end of the school year is almost here. And in most schools, it is the time for tests! The few short weeks are packed with valiant attempts by teachers to complete the lesson plans and assignments while fitting in all the ‘required’ tests, like the dreaded finals. All the while, summer break is waiting just around the corner, and planning for summer makes it so hard to concentrate. Teachers are stressed. Students are stressed. And yes, parents are stressed too – because their kids are stressed. (In some parts of the world, the stress can be intense – check out this mind-boggling story of test prep in China!)
But, it doesn’t have to be a killer time of the year, every year. Here are some simple test time strategies for parents of teens – easy ways to dial down the stress at home and help your child survive the end-of-school-year crunch.
1. Be there for your child
You’re sitting there staring at a piece of paper with no idea how to answer any question on your test. You’re sweating. You jump up and are awake. It was just a dream. Whew!
It is your child’s turn to live that anxiety now. He’s the one who has to take the tests and deal with the demands of school. But you know how scary it can be, and how much it helps to have someone to talk to about it.
That’s your role. Be the parent who’s willing to listen to the child who is terrified of tests. Or complains that tests are useless and don’t show if a person is smart or not. She’s probably right. For a lot of people, college, professions and the road a child will take in life may appear to be determined by every exam. Be the parent here and help your child to put it in perspective.
Do your best, to be aware of how your child is doing and feeling. Ask them questions, gauge their stress-levels, and ask how you can help when appropriate. Just let them know that you are on their team, no matter what.
- Remind Them to Stay Healthy
You know this already. (The old “sound mind in a sound body” saying is familiar to all of us, and is increasingly being proven true by science.) And you try to get your children to keep healthy habits – get enough nutrients, exercise and sleep – all the time. But this is a particularly stressful time of year and kids may be tempted to reach for the junk food and Red Bulls, and stay up late cramming, and too much of that could backfire. They need enough sleep to perform well (here’s the research to support it), and nutrition and exercise to keep their immune systems healthy and help them not fall prey to every passing virus. Remind them – gently – to eat right, workout a little and get some sleep.
And if they’re open to it, suggest some quick meditation and breathing exercises that will greatly reduce their stress levels and also help them focus.
- Be Their Test Coach
Help your child with practice exams by quizzing, timing, and checking their answers for them, and where needed, decoding test instructions and strategies (for example, when guessing the answer hurt or help.) This is a great way for students to reduce their test anxiety (freezing up during a test can sometimes be the cause of a poor grade). Tests become less frightening when students have already approached them in an informal way. Plus they’ll remember more of what they have learned.
- Help them with time management
Of course, the best way to help your child when preparing for tests is to promote studying as a daily habit (make sure you do that for the next school year!). But for now, you can still help your child manage her time better. Help her mark the dates and times of all the tests, assignments and any other ‘must-do’ item on her calendar, and then work backwards to figure out when she should start working for them. Help her prioritize what is important and identify what is harder for her and therefore likely to take more time. Having a schedule to work with often helps reduce the stress too.
You can also help by avoiding piling on family commitments (distractions) during this time – if your child would rather stay home and prepare for Monday’s test, don’t force him to attend your cousin’s barbeque on Sunday!
- Get Expert Help
If your child is struggling academically and you’re running out of ways to help, seek out assistance. Ask your child if he has any friends he’d like to study with – study groups are very effective. Encourage your child to check with his teacher who might have some excellent suggestions. There might be tutoring available at your child’s school or it might be worth investing in a private tutor. If your child needs targeted help in specific topics, there might be online courses she could take (Meemli Academy has some great options with live teacher guidance). Your child would feel relieved to know that there are many helpful people and resources out there that can eliminate much of the anxiety out of taking tests.
Until the educational system goes through a massive change, testing will be a big part of your child’s life, all the way through college. The best thing you as a parent can do is help your child learn strategies to deal with tests and get through them with a reasonable level of calm. It should get easier with practice every year!
Do you and your child worry about tests? How do you deal with test-anxiety? We’d love to hear from you!