Practical Strategies to Help Your Child with Test Anxiety
Does the mention of a test bring complaints of a stomachache or start the tears flowing? We tend to think of test anxiety only affecting college-bound high-school students with SATs ahead of them, but test anxiety can affect learners of all ages.
Exams are part of the school experience, and building coping strategies can help a nervous student enter testing with more ease and confidence. Put these tips into practice to help your child to tackle their test anxiety.
Prepare for the test. First things first—if your child doesn’t know the material, lack of knowledge will only amplify their anxiety. Work with your child to set up a study schedule. This will ensure that they learn the material at a comfortable pace with plenty of time to reinforce and review the subject matter.
Another way to help your child prepare is to research the test itself. Most of the time, teachers will let the class know the test format well in advance. For example, will it be multiple choice, essay, short answer, or a combination of test items? If your child doesn’t know, ask them to find out, or send the teacher a quick email. Then, write out practice questions, and give your child a time limit to answer them. The more they practice, the more confident they will feel.
Teach your child breathing exercises. Once your child sits in their seat, pencil in hand, they may feel anxious—even if they know the material. One way to combat creeping anxiety is to use breathing exercises. Breathing exercises reduce the stress response by encouraging oxygen exchange, which can calm a racing heart, lower blood pressure, and reduce tension.
Some breathing techniques to try include:
Have your child try each of these, and see which one feels best! Then, practice the strategies a few times so that they can quickly put them to work when feeling anxious.
Encourage positive thinking. When anxiety strikes, it’s normal to have negative thoughts. For example, your child might have ideas such as, “I’m not ready for this test,” or, “My friends are going to make fun of me if I fail.”
Remind them when these thoughts enter their minds to question any negative thoughts and replace them with positive statements like: “I’ve studied for this test, and I understand the material.” “Even if I don’t get a perfect score, I’ll still do great!” “If I breathe and focus on the questions, the answers will come back to me.”
Stay healthy. If your child suffers from test anxiety, diet and exercise may not be the first solution that springs to mind. However, staying healthy is key to reducing stress and fueling a strong mind.
Encourage your child to play outside, ride a bike, or shoot hoops. Exercising for as little as 10-15 minutes at a time can help reduce anxiety. But for best results, more is better. Aim for your child to get in 30 minutes or more of vigorous activity 3-5 days a week.
A healthy diet can also help with anxiety. Cut back on foods that contain too much sugar or caffeine. Instead, focus on foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates—especially at breakfast. And make sure your child stays hydrated! When your child is feeling their best, they’re less likely to experience anxiety symptoms.
Seek professional help. If the above suggestions are not solving the problem, it may be time to seek professional help. If you feel your child is exhibiting signs of mental health needs, your pediatrician can guide you toward the right professional to intervene.
If academic confidence or lack of progression seems to be triggering test anxiety, tutoring and enrichment programs like those offered at a Best in Class Education Center can help!
A tutor will ensure that your child understands the material and knows how to approach the test. By practicing test-taking skills in a structured yet nurturing environment, your child can grow more comfortable and confident in testing.
Need some support? If a tutor is part of your plan to tackle test anxiety and grow academic confidence, reach out to us today. Find your nearest Best in Class location here, or call us with any questions. We’d be happy to serve as your child’s success partner!