Helping Your Kids with Test Stress – Surviving the SATs Part 11

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With the Year 6 SATs just a few weeks away, parents often ask me how they can help their kids manage test stress. They want to help with children with passing or preparing for these tests – and how to manage during the actual testing week.

As they are only a month away, it really is time to get down to some serious studying to ensure that they feel as confident as they can be on the day of the test.  It is perfectly normal to feel anxious and stressed (and that’s just you – not your kids!) in the run up to the SATs – or any assessment period. In part 1 of this topic, I talked about:

  • Keeping things in perspective.
  • Being organised and prepared.
  • Planning how, when and where to study.
  • Importance of relaxing and fun activities.
  • 2 key skills you can help your kids with and free resources.
  • Staying calm when you’re studying with them.

Here are some more top bits of advice I can offer on how to best support your kids in the run up to the SATs:

  1. WhatsApp groups and spreading the stress

Social media has many benefits – sadly it also has some serious drawbacks. If your child is part of a school WhatsApp group (and the legal age limit is 13 years old) talk seriously with them about the amount of chat going on about “stressed everyone is.” It can really distress some kids, so ask them what they think their options are around this. Certainly turning off notifications such as sounds and vibrate, as well as looking into privacy setting are a good start. Avoid becoming caught up in the drama is the key message here. Being involved is not a way to be “in crowd” – staying away from it as far as possible, or minimising its impact is what’s needed to stay calm, focussed and in control.

This is a good article about what you can do to limit your child’s (and your) digital footprint on What’sApp:

  1. Sleep

It’s important that kids feel rested before the SATs so make sure they are sleeping well. Stop studying AT LEAST 1:5 hours before they go to bed, and stick to a regular, if slightly earlier bed time. 11 year olds need at least 10 hours of sleep. They may well have trouble sleeping if they are really anxious, so do lots of positive talk and make sure they are still participating in sports and activities they enjoy, as well as seeing friends socially.

  1. Know how to stay calm

If children are able to recognise when they start to feel stressed, they can calm themselves down and start to refocus. Drinking water, taking deep breaths, stretching and thinking calming mantras that they have used before, can really help. These are skills that are easily developed using coaching – if you are worried about your child being overly stressed in exam situations that can negatively impact on their performance, please get in touch.

  1. Check they can see the clock

The tests are timed and no doubt the school will make changes to the classroom for the week of the tests. This can cause stress for kids, so be aware that many of the displays in the classroom will have been covered over or taken down, and the seating changed to “exam style” rows. If these changes have been done the week before the tests so the kids get used to it, check with your child that they can see the clock from their new place.

  1. Do the test – move on

Like all tests, once it’s done, it’s done – move onto preparing for the next one. The kids will  no doubt have done a big de-brief with one another in the playground straight after the test. This can either be stressful as they find out they did wrong – or relief that they got it right, or that others found it hard too. Reassure them it’s OK, there’s nothing that can be done now, and the focus is to look ahead. This attitude will help them to be resilient and more positive about the next test. Picking over what went wrong, honestly isn’t helpful and it can impact on their self-esteem and preparation for the next test.

  1. Celebrate the end

Once they are over – yippee! Ask your child how they would like to celebrate and focus on what went well and talk about things that are coming up over the next few weeks. Enjoy the freedom that end of testing brings!

  1. The results – and managing their (and your) reaction

Most of us know the feeling of not quite getting the result we wanted – or the elation of doing well. You can’t change the results – all that happens is you and they find out how they did.  Even if they (and you) are disappointed, give them a hug, say you love them. Tell them you recognise they are disappointed. Sometimes, unfortunately in life, this  is the way life is around tests. You can’t stop them feeling disappointment – I’m afraid it’s a feeling that we all need to feel and learn to manage – yet you can enable them to acknowledge it, learn from it and move on.

If they really are very upset, try doing as above and let them have time on their own. Be respectful of their need for space, and as appropriate, let a bit of bad temper slide – none of us are always very gracious in defeat – and let them know you are there when they are ready. You are the one who they really need in this situation to help them move forward. As their mum or dad, or guardian, it’s your energy and momentum that will help this to happen.

If they did well, then that is great for them – they worked hard, they stayed calm, they managed their stress and they can feel proud of the hard work and positive attitude that got them to this point. Celebrate all these things together.

On a cautionary note, it’s all too easy to praise them solely because of the good result – be mindful that only focusing on the academic success, rather than the process of getting the result actually cause more harm than good. Praising the academic result or their intelligence puts a lot of pressure on children to continually be “smart.” This can result in their focussing continually on looking like they are “smart” or “the best”. Learning, growing, making mistakes, taking risks and being resilient are all part of the process that leads us all to become more confident, successful and resilient  life-long learners. If we only focus on the result, rather than the process, children (and adults) can become highly insecure, it can place limits on our true potential.

As the Costa’s Kids Coach, I help children learn important life skills such as managing stress and confidence around test situations. If you are worried about your child’s stress, or even how your concerns might be impacting on your child, please get in touch for a free consultation:


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