Exams have started today for my family. My son has two today and my daughters have one tomorrow. A week ahead of exams for them. Tell your children that the exams do not define them. We want them to study. We want them to do their best. We don’t want them to get wrapped up in intense test anxiety. I tell them frequently to study and do their best. That’s all they can do. I tell them that the skills they are learning from studying and working hard are more important than the actual test score.

This may not apply to all your children. Your children may not care. They may not study. They may not try. That is a different topic.

I personally don’t like tests. I like assignments. Let the kids work on things and put effort in for grades. Tests don’t measure well in my opinion. Especially for students who get too nervous to perform well.

I can’t wait for all the exams to be over. I can’t wait until my kids can have some stress-free time. For now, let us help them get through their exams.

My first question to my ten-year-old was:

Do you know how to study? We can’t assume that they know how to study. I wanted to hear from her how she was planning on studying. Thankfully, she had a plan. However, they may not know where to begin!

My 14-year-old had it broken up into little chunks to study each night. This isn’t something we can assume that they know how to do. They may need our help. They may need us to help with a plan or with quizzing them.

We don’t want them to only study the night before a test. What is your study plan? That’s the question. Studying over several nights is the goal.

I want to make sure that my kids get plenty of sleep, water and food this week. I want them to be able to think. They think better when they sleep and are hydrated. I won’t let them skip breakfast this week. I’ve gotten much better at focusing on my kids eating three meals a day. I need to keep this up through the summer. Meals can get totally lost in the summer.

I saw my daughter beginning to spiral. There were tears. So much stress over this upcoming exam. How did I respond to this:

“You have plenty of time to study. Go over it and figure out what you don’t know. Your brother is happy to help you. Use your brother for help to teach you things that you don’t know. You can do this. Take a deep breath and put it away for now. Take a break.”

I came inside to find my daughter in tears over this upcoming test. She has been going over things every night and is feeling much more confident since I found her crying. We talked about what she was telling herself:

“I’m going to fail. I don’t know this material.”

What are your children telling themselves during a test? What do you want them to tell themselves?

We talked about taking a deep breath and being kind. “I can do this. I am going to work through this. I am smart. I will answer as best as I can.”

I remember my heart racing during an exam. I used to take it as fast as I could. That is why I tell my children to take their time and check their work. It was a race for me to see how fast I could get it done and over with. I want them to slow their breathing and take their time.

Do they know how to relax themselves? Do they know how to slow their breathing? Have they practiced counting to ten? Do they know how to ground their feet to the floor? There are plenty of techniques they can learn to help them relax during an exam. Maybe the school needs to play relaxing music!

Studying and taking tests is teaching them so much. We want them to study. We want them to try. We want them to do their best. That’s all they can do. We also don’t want them to have intense stress and anxiety because they must get a certain grade. Grades do not define your children and they don’t define you.

My husband told my son to go get 100 on his Spanish test today. No pressure Max! When you know your child can get 100, you start to expect it from them. We also want to take notice of how much stress this is causing them. Is getting 100 stressing them out or is it easy for them? Every child is different. Every child has different strengths. Every child is going down a different path and every child is blooming at their own speed. My husband was kind of kidding.

I wish your children good luck on their exams. I wish them a healthy happy summer. I hope that they get through their exams as easily as they can. Remember to tell them that their grade does not define them.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R

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