Navigating the emotions of the NAPLAN test: A Parent’s Guide

As the NAPLAN test looms, a mix of emotions is common for both parents and children. Having faced my daughter’s test-related anxiety from an early age, our family adopted a mindset that viewed NAPLAN as an opportunity to build resilience. This is despite our personal views of NAPLAN and standardised testing. The fact is that NAPLAN was something that was a reality so our focus was on helping her develop the ability to face challenges and turn up for the hard stuff.

Building emotional resilience is key. Help your child develop coping mechanisms for stress, emphasizing that their worth is not solely determined by test results. This approach is closely linked to the critical role that self-esteem plays in the engagement of learning.

Research consistently supports the idea that developing skills to face challenges contributes to resilience in children. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Problem-Solving Skills and Resilience

Children who develop problem-solving skills are better equipped to face challenges, fostering adaptability and a sense of control over circumstances. The ability to approach difficulties with a problem-solving mindset contributes to resilience by fostering adaptability and a sense of control over one’s circumstances.

2. Coping Mechanisms and Emotional Regulation

Effective coping mechanisms, such as emotion regulation and stress management, are essential aspects of resilience. Children who learn to cope with challenging situations in a healthy way are more likely to navigate stressors, including academic challenges like standardized testing, with greater resilience. Read more about helping your child to managing anxiety

3. Cognitive and Emotional Flexibility

 Cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt thinking and strategies in response to changing circumstances, is linked to resilience. When children are exposed to a variety of challenges, they develop cognitive and emotional flexibility, enabling them to navigate diverse situations with greater ease.

4. Facing Academic Challenges and Building Resilience

  Studies have explored the impact of academic challenges, including standardized testing, on resilience. Experiencing and overcoming academic difficulties can contribute to the development of resilience as children learn to persevere, seek support, and manage stress.

5. Parental Support and Resilience Building

The role of parents in supporting children through challenges is a crucial factor. Research indicates that a supportive and nurturing environment, where parents encourage problem-solving, offer guidance, and provide emotional support, contributes significantly to resilience in children.

While facing a NAPLAN test might be a specific academic challenge, the skills children develop in approaching and overcoming such challenges can have broader implications for their overall resilience. It’s important to recognise that resilience is a multifaceted trait influenced by various factors, including coping skills, problem-solving abilities, and a supportive environment.

How can you support your child develop resilience from the NAPLAN experience?

At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for your child.  Whatever your views on NAPLAN there is concern about the stress and anxiety that standardised testing, including NAPLAN, may induce in students.

While teachers focus on academic preparation, as a parent, your role is crucial in helping your child navigate the emotional aspects of the test. Here are practical tips and insights from experts to ensure your child approaches NAPLAN with confidence and resilience.


Addressing Emotional Challenges

Acknowledge Feelings: Recognize and validate your child’s feelings about the upcoming test. Australian parenting expert Maggie Dent emphasizes the importance of acknowledging emotions. “Let them know it’s normal to feel a bit nervous. Share stories of when you felt the same way and what you did to manage those feelings.” Link to blog. 

Mindfulness Techniques: Encourage simple mindfulness exercises to help alleviate anxiety.  Breathing exercises or short mindfulness sessions can provide a sense of calm. Psychologist Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg suggests incorporating these practices into daily routines to build resilience.

Breathing is so important: I often tell people that breathing has not suddenly become popular because some clever marketers decided to teach the world to breathe.  It is an essential part of slowing down the bodies reaction to anxiety and stress.  When you are stressed your body goes into fight, flight of freeze mode.  You heart starts beating faster to prepare you to get out of the way of danger.  Breathing is the best physiological response as quite simply it replaces the stress cursing through your body with a DOSE of calm. 

Read more on helping your child manage their emotions.

Putting the Test in Perspective

Emphasise Learning Growth: Remind your child that NAPLAN is just one measure of their skills at a particular point in time. Education expert Dr. Pasi Sahlberg recommends focusing on the learning journey rather than the test itself. “Emphasize that every learning experience contributes to their growth, and this test is just a snapshot of where they are now.”

Highlight Strengths: Encourage a strengths-based mindset. Author and educator Andrew Fuller advises parents to identify and celebrate their child’s strengths. “Remind them of the areas where they shine, fostering a positive self-perception that extends beyond the test.” Read here. 

Test Strategies and Coping Mechanisms

Develop a Relaxation Routine: Dr. Carr-Gregg recommends creating a relaxation routine before the test day. “Establish a calming pre-test ritual, whether it’s listening to music, a short walk, or a favorite snack. Consistency builds a sense of security.”

Positive Self-Talk: During the test, encourage positive self-talk. Dr. Fuller suggests teaching children to reframe negative thoughts into positive affirmations. “Help them replace ‘I can’t do this’ with ‘I’ll do my best and learn from the experience.'”

Remember, your support and guidance play a pivotal role in helping your child build resilience and a positive mindset towards assessments like NAPLAN. By focusing on emotional well-being, fostering a growth mindset, and providing practical strategies, you empower your child to face challenges with confidence.


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