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How to Help Your Child Beat Test Anxiety


How to Help Your Child Beat Test Anxiety

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 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. 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 their anxiety where we can by teaching our children to cope with test pressure.

The Effects of Stress

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.

Coping with Test Anxiety

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 positives. 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 positives, negative thoughts can generate a type of feedback loop that hinders forward movement and thought. Positive thoughts and attitudes can actually generate positive outcomes. 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.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, text anxiety can become extreme. This is especially likely in cases where a child has a pattern of struggling on tests, or when they have a pre-existing anxiety condition. If your child's test anxiety is unmanageable through conventional means, or if it is severely affecting them on a day-to-day basis, it is important to step in and offer help.

Getting counseling for your child does not mean you have failed as a parent. Quite the contrary, actually. Getting your child the help they need is part of your job as a parent, even if that help means professional counseling. It is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. More people than you likely realize need counseling, whether they're a child or an adult.

Try to find a counselor that specializes in anxiety. They'll have the tools and the expertise to help your child overcome their test anxiety. They can dig deep into the roots of your child's issues, to determine what exactly is causing them to have this much stress. They may even unveil problems that you had no idea about.

Respect your child's confidentiality with their counselor. While it may be tempting to pry into your child's conversations with their counselor, it's important that they have their privacy. Rest assured that their counselor will tell you if they are suicidal or experiencing any other dangerous thoughts.

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