As cheery thoughts of spring trickle onto the radar, they can be accompanied by dreary thoughts of the annual standardized testing that inevitably occurs at the same time. One of the daunting aspects of standardized testing can be a student feeling they have no control over any of it. Test takers are told where to sit, which device or instruments to use, how much time to take, how much they can and cannot respond, when they can speak, and oh yeah, that all of this is going to determine their futures. As parents, it’s important to shine a light on what can be controlled and help students enter testing season with calm and confidence.
Instilling this calm and confidence doesn’t happen with words and actions on the day before a test. The mental and physical preparation for testing takes time, just as learning the tested material does. When parents are an integral part of the process, children know learning is valued and that they are supported. The guidelines and tips for entering testing season with calm and confidence can be followed all year long and have lasting positive impacts on student performance in any learning scenario.
So much of how our bodies and minds perform is dependent on the fuel that’s put into them. While this advice may seem like it is constantly barraging parents, there’s a reason for that- it’s true! Anytime, but especially during testing time, students need to have hearty, protein-packed meals before school. Skip the sugary cereals and drinks (high-fructose or energy advertisers) that offer a single burst which will inevitably be followed by lethargy. Eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, breakfast meats, etc. should be the go-to morning choices. There are lots of hearty and healthy options out there like these tasty treats from Wellness Mama. During testing time, make ahead meals can take away morning prep pressure and decrease the urge to take the easy route of a toaster pastry. The power of protein should also be a main planning element for snacks and lunches on testing days.
Another common subject when it comes to parenting advice is the importance of sticking to a bedtime schedule. This is particularly important during testing. Trying to get a child to go to bed early the night before a test isn’t enough. Sleep patterns take a while to establish, so a good night’s rest should be the goal throughout the entire school year. This should definitely hold true in the days leading up to a test. With activities, commitments, and homework taking up after school hours, it can be hard to follow the sleep charts that have recently been floating around on social media. Parents know what their kids can and can’t handle. Helping them get a sufficient amount of sleep during testing and all year long will help them succeed academically and in many other areas of their lives.
The topic of screen time is also a prevalent one during testing. Too much screen time isn’t good at any time of the year, but the overuse of screens amid testing is a bad combination. Much of testing is done on screens these days, and if screens were a big part of the morning or evening before, it can lead to some eye-crossing overload. Pulling kids’ focus away from screens before testing will help them have better focus during testing. Avoid watching shows before school or too much device time in the evenings. Screen time before bed can create issues with the already discussed importance of sleep.
One of the most important things that parents can do to help their children enter testing with a calm and confident outlook is bolster their children’s self-esteem. A few words the night before or morning of the test are not enough. When students have parents that support them and believe in them, they are going to have a healthier self-image. Many heartwarming letters have been shared that let students know they are more than a single test score. Parents need to make the sentiments of these letters a family mantra. This isn’t meant to downplay the importance or need to do their best on the tests, but it is meant to remove some of the make or break angst that come with them. Not everyone is a great test taker, but if a child has prepared for the test to the best of their abilities, then he/she needs to know that this is enough because they are so much more than this singular moment.
It can be easy to jump on the nay-saying bandwagon when it comes to testing, but students still have to take the tests. Hearing parents negatively comment on standardized testing can affect how students feel about the tests and how they perform. Parents can help build students up by working with them to prepare. Review testing materials, discuss strategies for taking mind breaks and relaxing, and encourage kids to do their best. When the support in preparation spans learning the material and the physical and mental preparation for testing, students will have an all-around healthier outlook and approach to testing.
When testing time seems riddled with things that students can’t control, it’s important to focus on the things that can be controlled. Eating right, getting proper rest, limiting screens, and bolstering self-esteem are all a part of a supportive home environment. By accentuating the healthiest options both physically and mentally, parents can be instrumental in helping students find success during standardized testing.
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