Our children are now being tested more than ever before. In schools we have gone from testing children on curricular material to teaching test taking strategies for NCLB tests that determine school funding based on arbitrary performance evaluation. Much of our children's academic lives are dominated by one test after another.
It is no surprise to learn that this has caused our children to feel some performance anxiety. In fact, most children feel some level of test related stress or anxiety when they are faced with yet another test. As parents, however, we cannot abandon our children to the stress they are feeling. Without our help, our children will lack the tools to successfully navigate the situation and stress will cripple their academic life.
Instead, we must step up to the plate and reduce the anxiety where we can by teaching our children to cope with test pressure.
Stress is a physiological response that is tied into our fight or flight mechanisms. A child under stress therefore, is much less likely to be capable of performing well. Stress can cause the brain to get out of sync and have to work harder to process information and achieve results. It can also make your child more vulnerable to illnesses and other negative effects. You can strengthen your child's body against stress response however:
* Make sure that your child is getting a proper night's rest and a full eight hours or more of sleep every day.
* Make sure that your child regularly displays healthy eating habits.
* Make sure that your child gets the right amount of exercise.
All of these things should help your child to fight off the negative effects of stress.
The best way to cope with your child's test anxiety is to teach them to be well prepared for tests and to focus on the positive. The first will give them the skills to navigate the test questions themselves while the second will have a powerful effect on the mind's response to stress. Begin by making sure that your child is regularly studying and doing their homework. It is important that you be sure that they are not having any trouble understanding their work long before a test looms on the horizon.
When a test does come up, make sure they have studied for it long before cramming becomes necessary. Then, on the night before, have your child put the books down and focus on something fun and relaxing instead.
As for teaching your child to focus on the positive, many studies show that negative thoughts can generate a type of feedback loop that hinders forward movement and thought. Positive thoughts and attitudes can actually generate positive outcomes however. Teach your child to interrupt negative thoughts about their test performance with more positive ones.
Finally, help your child understand that you value their academic performance as a whole and that one small test does not really mean much in the grand scheme of things.