16 May EQAO Testing can cause stress for students and parents.
As the end of May approaches parents and their children may become stressed as they anticipate the mandatory standardized testing called EQAO for all students in Ontario public funded schools. When we think of tests we think ‘study’. The EQAO is not that kind of ‘test’. It’s based on what the students have learned throughout their school year. It’s a way for the Ministry of Education to look at where improvements need to be made in our schools.
Some students may experience overwhelming stress and anxiety as they believe they must do well, not only to please their parents and teachers, but also to prove to themselves that they do have the knowledge and learning to successfully pass the ‘test’ – that they are indeed ‘smart’.
As parents, we can easily transfer our anxious feelings, negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations about ‘tests’ to our child without realizing it. It’s natural to want to protect our child from the possibility of not doing well. We may believe we are being encouraging, supportive and protecting them if they don’t do well, when we say things like, ‘I wasn’t good at math or grammar so you won’t be or need to be either.’ Those words can actually discourage your child from making an effort and also hinder their ability to bounce back from mistakes.
For our children, ‘test anxiety’ can show up as their stomach feeling full of butterflies, a heart that feels like it’s about to beat out of their chest, sweating palms or difficulty catching their breath – all normal symptoms of anxiety. I believe it’s important to teach our children ways to let go of stress and move through anxiety so that they can face their ‘testing day’ with a calm mind, mental alertness and clarity, allowing them to have excellent recall of what they have learned in the past year,
Here are 3 of my favourites:
1. MINDFUL BREATH
When a child’s brain is taken over by frustration, anger and nervousness and their bodies are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, they are more likely to start making choices from their emotions, which blocks their ability to think with a calm, clear mind. When my 4 year old son is overwhelmed in emotion, I bend down so I am at his eye level and I say, ‘Kai, breathe. Take a deep breath in and out.’ I breathe with him. We repeat ‘the breath’ 3 times or whatever amount he needs in order to calm. Here is a great article I found on mindful breathing. In this article you will find different ways to teach your child to breathe in order to restore calm.
2. CREATE A LIST OF HEALTHY WAYS TO RELEASE EMOTIONS
Knowing how to positively release emotions in advance helps the emotionally charged child to better cope with the challenges and stressors of a test. Since everyone is different, each child will need their own list of what calms them down and brings them back to feeling more balanced. Moving through their emotions in a healthy way will allow them to return to a calmer state and to get into the ‘test zone’ quicker.
Examples of Healthy Ways to Release before the Test
- Go to bed early so they are well rested in the morning.
- Listen to motivating music.
- Talk to someone.
- Picture feeling and looking confident while writing the test.
- Repeat positive, encouraging words.
Examples of Healthy Ways to Release Emotions during the Test
- Gently pull on their ears.
- Make a tight fist with their hands, let go, repeat as many times as needed.
- Wiggle their toes.
- Keep taking slow deep breaths.
- Repeat positive, encouraging words.
Writing down feelings and thoughts helps to clear the clutter that sometimes takes over their minds. It also helps:
- Strengthen the immune system, lower stress and reduce depression and anxiety.
- Clarify and achieve goals. A study showed that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them and feel less stressed.
- Create empathy and understanding by allowing them to see their emotions and recognize that everyone faces challenges.
- Allow them to get to know themselves thereby increasing self confidence.
It’s easy to let stress and anxiety take over. When I notice this happening, I sing the lyrics to a song I wrote called ‘Use To’. It reminds me that even in stressful, anxious times I can slow down, relax and have fun.
‘If life’s a game I’m willing to play. Here’s what I have to say. Stop taking it so seriously. Relax. Enjoy. Let yourself breathe. If life’s a game here’s what I’ve gotta do so I can make it through. Focus on me. Let myself be free. Take time. Reduce the speed.’
It’s important to remember that no matter what the test results are, they are not a reflection of your parenting skills. The ‘test’ is a marker for what your child has learned from the curriculum, not your child’s character and the wonderful person they are.
Until next time,