Surviving NAPLAN: By Miranda Mullins, Clinical Psychologist- Psychology Consultants
NAPLAN is fast approaching and so is the annual debate about whether this kind of testing is putting young kids under too much pressure.
Whatever your opinion, the fact of the matter is, come May, children across the country in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests.
Although the education department considers the tests essential, as a psychologist the pressure and anxiety the testing can cause children is a concern. It is also one of the many opportunities for kids to develop resilience and the necessary skills to face the challenges of life. And for some children, it is a time when they can learn about the normal nervousness of facing a challenge, whether it be running a race or doing a test.
Children face more daily pressure than ever before with statistics revealing roughly 1 in 10 Australian kids are suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. It is important to manage the pressure and stress felt in the lead up to the tests as this is essential to avoiding an overly anxious child.
Remember that the importance of NAPLAN can be over-emphasised by schools and teachers and who also feel under pressure to perform so as a parent, ‘playing it down’ can help to subside some of the pressure.
If you child is anxious, try to understand the sources of anxiety or the specific concerns and develop coping strategies that are tailored to their needs. You may be surprised at the unrealistic fears your child may be facing.
It is important as a parent to acknowledge any anxiety that may be felt and not dismiss it as silly or unnecessary. After all, it is normal to feel a little nervous before sitting a test. This is human nature and most adults sitting the test would feel a similar level of pressure.
If you feel your child is overly anxious about the test, or has learning difficulties, speak to your teacher about ways to manage the testing process. Psychologists can also provide ongoing strategies for both parent and child if anxiety is affecting your child’s daily life.