The last two days, my 7 year old has been taking the Stanford Achievement Test. We homeschool, but have to provide for the state some sort of end of year assessment. There are other options, such as creating a portfolio of her work throughout the year, or writing a letter. I decided to use a standardized test for a number of reasons. Primarily, I want my children to have practice taking standardized tests. Taking these tests are a skill in and of themselves, and no matter what you think about the value of the tests or the information they provide, there will be standardized tests throughout your child’s life.

We take tests before college, graduate school, to get some kinds of jobs, and my husband and I even took a standardized test as part of our pre-marriage counseling with the Catholic church. Standardized tests are everywhere. I am not so concerned with the actual outcome of the tests my daughter takes. I know where she stands in different subject areas without the test telling me. Also, I have proctored these tests, and had to the chance to review them myself. I know that the directions and phrasing of questions are often confusing and therefore the “skill” being measured might not be adequately represented in the results.

Despite all these things, we take the test at the end of every year and faithfully send the results to the local school district. I am careful to explain to my child that she should relax and not worry about the test. Simply do her best, and guess when needs be.

Despite all this, after the two half-days of testing, she was past her limits of psychological stress. She had two very uncharacteristic melt downs afterwards. First, she screamed and cried hysterically when her younger brother playfully chased her. We had to leave her recess time with friends after the test was completed. Then, her long awaited first soccer class had to be cut short because she also started crying. It was obvious to me that my child had been totally emotionally depleted.

She has a remarkable degree of emotional intelligence for a little person. When frustrated or disappointed, she declares that she just needs a little time by herself to calm down, and takes herself to her room to read. When very upset, she sings herself a cute little song from a Tinker Bell movie that lifts her spirits. She will also sit down at the piano to play, again, to change her thought pattern.

She has always had intense feelings and a little edge of anxiety. These are common in gifted children, which I believe she is. We’ve worked with her on managing her feelings with a number of exercises. We put “bad thoughts” or “worries’ into an imaginary bubble with our hands and blow them away. She likes to symbolically put nightmares into the toilet and flush them away.

We role play with potentially stressful situations, and she likes to always be told what is happening at the doctors and dentists offices before they do it. This is not a child that you sneak the vaccination on.

After all this yesterday, we talked about shaking off the bad day, and moving on. In the end, no one was hurt in the argument between siblings, and soccer could always start again next week. And importantly, today is a mental health day.

I won’t push to do homeschool, because she needs to decompress. We’ll play games and read books. We’ll go for a walk, and go the library. We’ll snuggle and snack and watch a movie. She needs recovery time just like we all do after a stressful project. Unfortunately, children can’t make the decision to do this for themselves. The adults in their lives have to recognize this need just like we recognize their grumpiness is related to needing a snack or a nap. We enforce regular bedtimes and balanced diets. So to, we should recognize the very real need of breaks, whenever they are needed, not just when we want to schedule them.

I know that many people feel that young children are being over tested in schools. Does anyone else noticed signs or symptoms of stress in their children after testing? How do you recognize when your child needs a break? What do you do to help yourselves and your children decompress after stressful events?