#2 pencils, a ticking clock and deep concerns about the future.
In May, students across the state will take their mandatory Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams and, for many, the ritual tests more than their academic knowledge. Pressure triggers anxiety. A 2018 Texas A&M study found that some college students had elevated levels of cortisol — the hormone that triggers the stress response — on standardized test days.
Not all stress is bad. In fact, some stress is an important ingredient in learning to deal with adversity and turning children into adults with the skills to deal with difficult situations, said Dr. Deepa Sekhargeneral manager of Penn State PRO Wellness. Above all, “the key to a child learning to manage stress is knowing that he is loved and has people to turn to,” she says.
Sekhar does not advise a drastic change in plans during the testing period. Instead, open the lines of communication. Let your child know that doing well in exams is important, but no one expects perfection.
“Try to be calm,” she said. Make sure your child gets enough rest, but don’t change bedtimes too much. Now might not be the time to be reminded of bad habits that are hard to kick, like kids not cleaning up after themselves.
Also, try to lead by example. If you run out to work in the morning, your stress is in the air and can affect your child. Give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning and make sure they have breakfast too.
Talking with your child’s teachers can also help. If they’ve had a bad morning, let the instructor know – they might be a bit frazzled today. If your child’s stress and anxiety seem way out of proportion to what you expect and are able to handle, contact your child’s primary care provider for further guidance.
The image below contains tips to help your child pass the PSSAs and other standardized tests. Click on the image for a version you can print.
the medical minute is a weekly health report produced by Penn State Health. Articles feature the expertise of faculty, physicians, and staff, and are designed to offer relevant and timely health information of interest to a broad audience.