By Julia Gaines MD, FAAP

The pollen is flying, Spring Break is over, and it’s testing season at school again. Most of our patients are preparing to take the Georgia Milestones standardized tests again and everyone from the kids to the parents to the teachers are on pins and needles. We all want the kids to do their best on these tests without completely stressing themselves out. While you can’t be in the classroom to help your child through it, there are definitely things parents can do to help the process go smoothly.

  • Make sure your child is well rested. Stick to bedtimes, even on weekends, during testing. Ensure that your child’s bedroom is dark and quiet and that they are turning off all electronics an hour before bed.
  • Make sure your child has a nutritious breakfast. Foods that are mostly sugar and refined carbs like sugary breakfast cereals, pastries, and donuts will give them a big energy surge initially but will run out quickly and leave them without good brain fuel. A breakfast consisting of a complex carb and protein will sustain them much more effectively. Think scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast or a whole grain waffle with fruit and peanut butter.
  • Encourage your child to drink lots of water when they’re home. Some kids don’t want to drink much at school so they don’t have to go to the restroom during the testing but hydration is essential for good brain function. Make sure they drink something in the morning and then hit the bathroom before school starts.
  • Testing can seem like it goes on forever. Your child is going to need to recharge when they get home. Encourage them to get outside and play. Fresh air and sunshine are much better for their mood then video games. Do something fun as a family during the weekend.
  • Sometimes people get distracted during the high-stress time of testing. If your child is on daily medication, make sure they get it on time. If your child is on medication for ADHD, make doubly sure they get it on time!
  • Double check their bags every night. Make sure they have all the supplies they need and that the teacher hasn’t sent home any notes. Have them pick out their clothes the night before. Having everything ready for the morning will help to get everyone out the door with a minimum of anxiety.
  • Oh, and the anxiety. Even the youngest kids worry about these tests. They know their teachers and parents want them to do well. They worry about passing to the next grade. Encourage them to voice their anxieties and acknowledge their concerns. Help them understand that they’ve been working hard all school year and have learned what they need to know.
  • Be aware that an anxious kid will often have physical complaints such as stomachache, headache, and nausea. If you think they’re suffering from a stress related problem, reassure them but send them on to school. Delaying the test will only exacerbate the anxiety. If they are suffering from a minor illness like a cold, send them on to school. However, if your child has fever, vomiting, or other symptoms that make you think they are really sick, give us a call. Sick children should not be taking high-stakes tests. They will not be able to do their best and they may infect other children.

Testing season can be a trial for everyone but soon it will be done and we can all look forward to summer!

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