Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Managing NAPLAN nerves

Children across Australia in years 3,5,7 and 9 will soon be sitting the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. These tests are designed to determine if children have the literacy and numeracy skills that are essential foundations of their future learning but may also be contributing to additional stress in our children’s lives. 

Research undertaken by Cluey Learning, revealed that over 30% of kids feel stressed by exams like NAPLAN and the majority keep this stress and their feelings entirely to themselves. Some children have become so stressed and anxious about these tests that they’ve experienced vomiting and sleeplessness.

With NAPLAN almost upon us it’s a good idea to begin to watch for signs your child is exhibiting that could indicate they are stressed such as – trouble sleeping, change in eating patterns, sore tummy or other physical ailments, negative self-talk, school avoidance, and isolating themselves from family and friends. If you notice any of these things occurring proactively address them so you can get on top of it before the stress escalates further.

Children will be thinking about NAPLAN and talking with their friends about it, so we need to ensure we talk to them about how they feel leading up to NAPLAN. There have been some families I have worked with who wanted to actively avoid mentioning NAPLAN in a desire to ease the weight on their kids. I believe we need to address the elephant in the room and use the opportunity to demonstrate to our children how they can deal with situations that make them anxious or nervous. 

Teaching our kids healthy coping strategies to deal with discomfort and coaching them as they practise is a great way to get them prepared for NAPLAN. It can also be beneficial to share how you’ve coped with challenges and what you did to calm your nerves, so that your children understand that being a little anxious or nervous about something is a healthy, normal part of life that can be managed. 

When talking with your kids about NAPLAN follow these three tips:

Follow their lead

Allow your child to guide the conversation – they may not want to talk about it and might become overwhelmed if you’re asking them loads of questions. Ask age-appropriate questions and don’t make a big deal out of it.

Acknowledge and validate their feelings

When we listen empathetically to their concerns, we are showing them that we respect them, take their emotions seriously, and understand how they are feeling. When children have the opportunity to label their emotions and talk about the big scary feelings they’re having, these will dissipate more quickly.

Keep things in perspective

NAPLAN is a slice in time reflection of your child’s literacy and numeracy skills and knowledge. They may not always reflect your child’s true abilities, especially if your child becomes stressed by exams, has a fight with a friend or doesn’t feel well. These tests do not indicate how well your children will do in life or what type of person they are. A better indication of all of these things is a conversation with your child’s teacher. 

One of the best ways to view NAPLAN is that it is one of many opportunities that kids will have to develop resilience and the essential skills to handle the challenges of life. 

Kari Sutton is an educator, speaker and author who has helped over 25,000 children, parents, and educators with evidence-based strategies, tools and approaches to foster children’s positive mental health. She deconstructs the research, so you don’t have to and provides practical, easy to use tools and strategies that plant the seeds of resilience, emotional wellbeing and mental fitness in our children. She is launching her second book “Raising a Mentally Fit Generation” in late 2020.