Children who become anxious at the thought of a test often feel convinced they are going to fail. Test anxiety occurs for many reasons, such as lack of preparation, fear of disappointing the teacher or parents, or low self-confidence. Fortunately, there are lots of things parents can do to help reduce test stress.
Help your child feel prepared
If the test is on material learned in class, help your daughter study a little every day, using different methods. These can include making flash cards, writing and rewriting key words, making up a “mock” test, or even having her teach you the material. Teach her the following, calling it the A-B-C-D Rules for Test Taking:
- Always read the directions twice.
- Breathe in and out 5 times to relax.
- Carefully read the questions and answer the easy ones first.
- Don’t hand in the test until you have double-checked your work.
Write down their worries
There’s an easy exercise to help kids focus on the test instead of on their worries. On the morning of the test, have your child take a few minutes to write down on a piece of paper everything that’s on her mind. It doesn’t have to be about the test. The point is to get out all her thoughts and worries onto that piece of paper. Research shows that this relieves the mind’s working memory. It makes space in the mind’s working memory, so that the student can devote all of their cognitive resources to the test — not to monitoring or suppressing their worries.
Draw a map
Another thing you can do is suggest your child draw what’s called a self-concept map. Basically, you take a piece of paper, you draw a circle in the middle and that’s you — you can write ‘me’ in the middle — and then draw lines coming out from that circle, as many as possible, and just label each one with a role that the kid plays. Like ‘I’m a soccer player’, ‘I’m a daughter’, ‘I’m a friend’, ‘I’m an artist’. The point is to show kids that the test is not all of who they are. Too often, tests seem disproportionately important. When kids remind themselves that they’re so many other things other than a student, it helps them feel less nervous.
After the test
Praise your child for her hard work and help her celebrate with a special activity, such as taking a walk or playing a game together. Don’t put too much emphasis on her grade and don’t join in her anxiety if she gets upset. Instead, when the test comes home, approach it calmly, reviewing errors and talking about ways to improve next time.