Formal exams are an inevitable part of schooling for most children, so we thought parents might like a few ideas to help reduce the amount of stress their child experiences around NAPLAN (held annually in May) and make it a helpful learning experience for them:
Discuss a “try your best” attitude to exams in your home if NAPLAN is mentioned – be clear to your kids you are proud of the effort they put in, and you are less concerned about the outcome (i.e. the marks they get and how they compare to others – as many factors out of your child’s control affect these).
Explain how exams are at least a little bit stressful for everyone – maybe share an appropriate story about a time when you had to complete an exam and found it stressful, but you just tried your best and got through it (this “normalising” of stress is helpful for many children).
3. Plan a Reward
Ask your kids to come up with some ideas for activities you could do as a family on the weekend after NAPLAN – discuss it as a “reward” for your child trying their best with NAPLAN. This will reinforce your “try your best” attitude to them and give them something else to think about and look forward to after the week of NAPLAN.
Do some revision of skills and practice questions with your child in the weeks leading up to NAPLAN – if your child’s teacher is able to provide you with practice questions to revise in the weeks leading up to NAPLAN, its a good idea to help your child go through these if they are having difficulty. When they are able to complete some of the questions relatively easily, ask them to complete the next set of questions or re-do the questions they have already done without talking for a set period of time eg 10/20 mins for primary school aged children (to help them practice completing questions in ‘test-like’ conditions)
Encourage your child to read each NAPLAN test question first (quietly in their mind) before answering a question. Also encourage them to look at the other questions on the exam paper before they start working on them and answer the questions they find easiest first (this will help to settle their nerves and improve their confidence during the test). You may need to practice this approach at home with your child using a worksheet to demonstrate what you mean.
PLEASE NOTE: Parents of children who have pre-existing anxiety related conditions, Autism, learning issues or other related concerns should discuss how NAPLAN and other testing should be approached with their child’s teacher or school support staff, as adaptations may need to be made to ensure they are well supported and not over-stressed.
About the author- Steve Rushton is the founder and principal psychologist with Changes Psychology Brisbane, a practice of child and family psychologists that sees children and parents in their home, school or child care centre for no additional fee. www.changespsychology.com.au