We are well and truly into that one time of year that screams EXAMS! and STRESS! When our children feel anxious, they often give themselves negative messages like: ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m useless’ and ‘I’m going to fail’. This week’s blog, written by one of my fab coaches shares how her young daughter’s behaviour changed during SAT’s week…………….
(Check Our Tips For Exam Stress At the End of the Blog).
The week before last, something happened to my bubbly, enthusiastic, lively, resilient eleven year old daughter. She became withdrawn, snappy and irritable. We were all tiptoeing around her. Having any kind of interaction was like treading on egg shells and the slightest thing would have her in floods of tears or induce an angry outburst. She couldn't sleep and was off her food; now this is a child who has always eaten and slept so well she could probably do both at competition level! She also didn't want to go out to play with her friends and preferred to stay in her room.
Getting her out of bed in the mornings was a real struggle as was getting her into her classroom in the morning. One morning in the playground she had a full on panic attack. She was hyperventilating, and just couldn't regulate herself at all. The school staff were amazing and helped to calm her down and she spent the morning in Reception class with her brother and sister and returned to her class when she felt better.
Having witnessed this change of behavior, I was a wreck. I wanted to grab her and run and keep her at home with me, make everything better but I couldn't. Two days later she was hanging off me outside her classroom, sobbing and begging me not to leave her.
The reason for this poor child's stress, fear and anxiety? Yes, you guessed it SATS or rather the build up to SATS.
When I managed to get a rational conversation out of tween girl, I asked her what she was actually worried about. She told me she was worried about not getting good enough results and letting the school down and letting me down. So in a nutshell at the tender age of eleven she was worried about not being good enough!!!!!!
She has so many amazing qualities and strengths that to witness her measuring her self worth against a set of academic tests was heartbreaking.
Would her SATS scores reflect that her presence in a room is like sunshine on a rainy day?
Would they show that she was one of the most empathic, loving, kindest people you could ever meet?
That she had an amazing talent for Makaton signing?
Would they tell the world that she was brilliant at drama and puts a smile on the face of everyone she meets?
Children need to know what they are good at and know they are loved and liked for who they are, for those innate qualities that make them their own little person. Unique, special.
In my opinion, if children continue to be rigorously tested at such a young age then something needs to be in place to help them build resilience and self esteem too.
They need to be taught ways to cope with the pressure. Having young children experiencing anxiety and stress and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy is really unacceptable, emotional health problems in our young people are becoming much more commonplace and are on the rise.
Of course we know it’s important to gauge how our children and schools are progressing, but is this the ONLY way to measure that? Exams are important, however they are not the only key to a successful future.
So here’s a message to our current and future governments; if you insist on this extreme testing of our kids, we need to ensure we look after their emotional wellbeing too. Maybe we should be providing self esteem and resilience training or maybe a mindfulness workshop is more up your Downing Street? If you do, I know just the people to deliver it for you!
Natural Flair’s 7 Top Tips For Exam Stress
When we feel anxious, we often give ourselves negative messages like: ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m useless’ and ‘I’m going to fail’. Changing them can feel difficult at first - try to replace these with more positive, motivating thoughts such as:
‘this is just anxiety, it can’t harm me’
relax, concentrate - it's going to be okay’.
Picturing how you would like things to go can help you feel more positive.
For example; imagine yourself turning up to an exam feeling confident and relaxed –
how would you be standing?
What would you be thinking?
What would you be doing?
Plan ahead – be organised in advance, prepare a revision schedule with free time and fun things allocated too!
Look After Yourself – eat and sleep well!
Junk food and junk sleep = junk thoughts and an underperforming brain! Remember too that exercise helps us to destress – healthy body, healthy mind.
Preparation is the Key! –
check you have all the equipment you need for the day; pens/pencils etc.,
Leave in plenty of time to get to school/college so you have no need to rush on the day of the exam
Visit the loo before the exam starts
Ready to Go?
Start by breathing slowly and easily before the exam starts – Imagine you have a lovely mug of hot chocolate – Imagine breathing in the delicious chocolatey smell, and because it’s too hot to drink, blow it to cool it down.
read through the questions fully before you start and again breathe slowly and easily before you start to write. (This will help to calm any anxiousness in your brain)
if there is a choice of questions to answer, start with the ones that you are more confident about and go back to the harder questions later.
If you are stuck move on and come back later –
If you really aren’t sure, have an intelligent guess.
Ensure you leave time to read back through your answers.
Remember that Success comes in “cans” not in “can’ts”