NAPLAN Week – supporting your child through tests

Dr Zoe Taylor (Clinical Psychologist)

NAPLAN week is here again and at Bayside Psychology we have some top tips for supporting your child and reducing their worries about tests and exams.

  • Firstly, a few nerves are ok, it can actually improve performance by increasing alertness. However, we don’t really want children to get too stressed or worried. Doing well can improve confidence but too much pressure can make it hard for children to do their best.
  • Help your child to gain perspective.  Tell them that tests are the way we find out how schools are teaching children and how children are learning. Emphasise that what is important is that your child feels happy with how they have tried and that they are enjoying school. Rewarding children for completing the test is more beneficial than rewarding them for a particular mark or grade. Setting a particular mark for a reward can make a child give up if they believe it is unobtainable, or be upset if they put in lots of effort and still did not reach it.
  • Look after your child’s health. Help them get lots of rest, eat healthily and get a good night’s sleep. Doing some fun exercise the day before the test will help them fall asleep more easily the night before.
  • Make learning fun. Have a well-lit, tidy homework environment and if your child starts to lose concentration, it’s time for them to get up, move around and come back to their homework. Taking breaks to reflect on their work allows a child to consolidate what they have done. Then, after a rest, they will be ready to start again.
  • Practice relaxation and mindfulness. The free App ‘smiling minds’ has some great relaxation and mindfulness exercises for children and they can rate how they are feeling before and after completing them.

Here are some clues to spot when your child’s worries may be getting too big:

  • Look for changes in their behaviour. Children may become more irritable, clingy or hyperactive when they are worried. They can also be more withdrawn, more easily upset and less interested in doing the things they enjoy.
  • Children’s sleep patterns can become irregular; they may find it difficult to fall asleep or have nightmares or night terrors.
  • Children can talk about ‘feeling sick’ or having stomach aches, which may be a sign of anxiety.

What to do if you are worried?

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling. Empathise and encourage them to think about what may help them to feel less worried.
  • Reassure them that their feelings are normal and talking can help.
  • Practice relaxation exercises and breathing slowly with them to reduce their anxiety.
  • If they are saying they ‘can’t’ do something, tell them they only need to give things a try. Hearing you talk positively about trying new things will help them understand and feel reassured.

Finally, if you feel your child’s anxiety or worries are becoming too big, talk to their teacher and go and visit your child’s GP. Children can access a medicare rebate for 10 Psychology sessions per year.  Here at Bayside Psychology we have 2 Psychologists who work with children struggling with anxiety, education difficulties and many other childhood problems. Ian Stapleton and Dr Zoe Taylor regularly meet with children and their families to provide assessment and treatment.  Intervening during childhood teaches children strategies they can use right through their school years and into adulthood.

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