My eldest daughter turned 16 a few months ago. It was a very exciting day in her world and it was made even more exciting because where I live, the 16th birthday is the day that young people are allowed to get their learners driving permit, a huge rite of passage kind of day. Of course, to get the permit, young people have to take a computer-based theory test and passing this test provides the authorization to start practicing for the road test, which happens approximately one year later.
Anyways, all the excitement around my daughter getting her learners license caused me to think a lot about kids taking tests for various different things and how to lower the normal stress levels associated with test taking. And as with all things related to kids and stress, I always start from the experience of my own children.
My eldest daughter usually approaches test taking with a sense of calm; whereas, my younger daughter hates taking tests with every fiber of her being. This is not to say my eldest daughter does well on every test she takes and my younger daughter does poorly on every test she takes. In my opinion, the problem is not related to levels of intelligence nor is it related to study habits and time spent studying.
I say this because I am not really talking about grades here at all, but rather about individual experiences with testing regardless of the surrounding circumstances. What I am trying to explore here is why some kids become stressed with tests no matter what and why some kids find the testing process so simple? Now, I imagine there have been many studies already done that show a correlation between stress levels and testing success, so I really don’t want to rehash the results of those studies either.
No, what really fascinates me is “WHY” some kids are stressed and others are not and after many years of observing the differing test taking attitudes and behaviors of my own children, I have come to the realization that their comfort or stress levels with testing has to do with self-confidence (not really ground-breaking either), but it also has to do with how that self-confidence affects their willingness to employ certain stress management tools prior to taking tests and in regards to getting prepared for tests.
For example, my eldest daughter has a very strong sense of self and as such, she seems very willing to use many high-powered stress management tools in just about everything she does; whereas, my other daughter has struggled, until very recently, with her sense of self, and I have noticed this may be a major factor in why she often seems quite resistant to using stress management tools, good or bad, to help her manage life’s challenges.
Yesterday, I spoke about helping youth (and adults) identify their sense of purpose or their primary aim in life; something that is quite different than figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, and it strikes me as quite possible that knowing what makes you tick gives you a very high level of self-confidence and as a result you are far more willing to be problem-solving oriented in terms of conquering stress.
In other words, it might be that you or your children simply have not come up with a really good reason to put up with stress and so therefore you don’t have a good reason to be proactive about solving stress.
Have you ever noticed that many people who have real problems in life often seem quite unwilling to take steps to solve the problems? It seems as though they wallow in self pity rather than reach out to take control of their health and their life. If you ever wonder why this is or maybe this even happens to you, it might be related to a lack of awareness about sense of purpose.
But back to kids for a minute… in case you’re wondering about the lowest possible age a child must be in order to figure out primary aim or to uncover a sense of purpose in life, you should know that some research indicates a person’s primary aim is already predetermined at the time of birth and what happens after that is simply a matter of the level of mental, social and emotional health a person achieves or does not achieve.
So, if someone is unhealthy in terms of mental, social and emotional health because of things that happened or didn’t happen during childhood, then that person may not go through the process of uncovering their primary aim at all or at least not in the early years, but if a person is given lots of opportunities during childhood to achieve high levels of mental, social and emotional health, then uncovering the primary aim early on is much more likely.
So, according to research, it is possible to equip children with all the tools needed to have extreme success in everything they do all through their teen and young adult years; it will take a bit of effort on the part of the parents, of course, but it is more than possible.
Given taking tests is such a huge part of the current academic climate for most, if not all, students and given that most parents probably like the idea of their children doing very well in school, it may be a very prudent idea to take steps to help children figure out what makes them tick, so they have a really good reason to put up with stress and so they are more willing to take steps to solve stress.
As a result, their grades may go up in school and they will have a far better chance of growing up to be healthy, happy, self-motivated and successful. Helping children become stress hardy and resilient does not happen by accident, it takes significant effort on the part of the parents to accomplish this outcome.