SATs 2019: How To Help Your Child Cope With Exam Stress

Follow this school's lead and put the tests into perspective for your kids.

More than half a million 11-year-olds are taking SATs tests in English and maths this week. Despite the results mainly being used to hold primary schools across the country to account, there are concerns about the pressure pupils feels to achieve good results.

Some schools take steps to reduce the amount of stress children feel. All Saints’ School in Blackheath set their pupils a different type of “homework” for the weekend before the SATs, which wasn’t really homework at all.

Mum and journalist Jane Martinson previously tweeted out a picture of the letter showing the ideas for fun things to do, many of which could also be used as activities to do during the week in-between exams. One was to go outside and enjoy the weather, whether that be playing in the garden, going for a bike ride, a walk or just sitting outside and reading. Check out the other ideas and see how many you could tick off with your kids this week.

This week, it’s worth looking out for signs that your child may be stressed to see if and when you may need to intervene. If your child is worrying a lot, not sleeping well, is irritable and seems negative or low in their mood, it’s likely they are feeling stressed, according to NHS Choices.

While they may be feeling pressure during their days at school, there are some ways parents can try to ensure the afternoons and evenings are more relaxing:

Don’t add to the pressure.

You may not realise you are doing it, but according to NHS Choices, lots of the children who contact Childline feel that most pressure at exam time comes from their family. “Before your child goes in for a test or exam, be reassuring and positive,” advises NHS Choices. “Let them know that failing isn’t the end of the world. After each exam, encourage your child to talk it through with you. Talk about the parts that went well rather than focusing on the questions they had difficulties with. Then move on, rather than dwelling on things that can’t be changed.”

Have a ‘SATs food’ week.

“Let your child choose their breakfast and dinner for the week - within reason,” advises Cathy Ranson, editor at “They’ll look forward to a special ‘SATs breakfast’ and be more likely to eat it and have energy for the day. And coming home to their favourite supper is a great way to round off the day.”

Put the tests into perspective.

For kids, SATs tests are probably their most important exams to date so it’s natural they’ll get worried about them. As parents, you know how little your SATs exam results impacted the rest of your life so it’s worth giving a gentle reminder that the tests will not determine their future and is more of a measure for the school to see how they are doing.

Help them to revise.

While taking breaks away from studying is important, knowing that they have revised will help some children to feel calm and prepared. Ensure they aren’t over-doing it, but also sit down with them and help them focus. “Ask them how you can best support them with their revision,” NHS Choices advises. “Help them to come up with practical ideas that will help them revise, such as drawing up a revision schedule or getting hold of past papers for practice.” Ranson advises using a kitchen timer to set specific revision time periods to make sure they don’t over-do it.

Make sure you talk about their stress.

Keeping things bottled up never helps anyone. If you notice your child is stressed, Place2Be, a national children’s mental health charity, advises acknowledging how they are feeling: “A simple conversation can help children to acknowledge what they’re struggling with and how it makes them feel”. Remind them that stress is normal and natural, and explain a few times you may have got stressed before a nerve-wracking event and how you managed to calm yourself down.

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Find the little things that help them relax.

Every child is different when it comes to the relaxation techniques that work for them. Some may want to lay on the sofa and watch TV, others may like to draw or lay in bed listening to music. Give your child suggestions to see what takes their fancy. “Bubble baths are an easy win,” says Ranson. “Let them have a deep bubble bath so they can relax. It works for SAT-weary kids just as much as tired mums.”

Encourage exercise during exams.

If your child already goes to an after-school activity club, make sure they still going during the week of their SATs. If not, can you suggest a fun physical activity to do that they would enjoy, instead? “Exercise can help boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress,” advises NHS Choices. “It doesn’t matter what it is - walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all effective.”

Make time for treats.

Talk to your child about what rewards they would like for doing revision and getting through each exam - this could be half-way through the week, or a big one at the end. Rewards don’t need to be expensive. They can include simple things like making their favourite meal, watching TV, heading to the park after school or going to see a film they’ve wanted to watch. “Also, most children would love to run riot in the local pound store with a few pounds in their pocket,” adds Ranson.

How else do you help your child de-stress? Let us know in the comments below.

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