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October 11th, 2018

Help Your Child With Test Anxiety

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Does your child struggle with test anxiety? With adrenaline flowing, sweaty palms, shallow breathing and a flutter in his stomach–this feeling can actually be turned into a springboard for your child’s improved performance! Using these tips for success, you can recognize the problem and help him to push through, overcoming this obstacle with tools that will aid him for life!

Although felt at different levels, a little pre-exam tension can help your child be more alert and ready to concentrate. But if the tension is greater, it can actually completely shut your child down.  So it is important to be able to recognize the anxiety and the level of anxiety early, then respond accordingly.

Recognize the Problem

Test anxiety can come in waves, increasing and then subsiding. As a parent, notice when turmoil is brewing in your child.  Recognize what is triggering the behavior, noting the following symptoms.

Symptoms of exam anxiety may include the following*:

Before the test:

  • Crying easily, feeling irritable, or getting frustrated quickly
  • Extreme nervousness, irritability, dread, fear, or hopelessness
  • Fear of something ‘bad’ happening before arriving to take the exam
  • Drastic appetite changes – overeating, or skipping breakfast and lunch
  • Trouble sleeping the night before

During the test:

  • Inability to remember facts that were known before the test
  • Excessive yawning (body’s method of increasing oxygen to the brain)
  • Upset stomach, asthma attacks, headaches, perspiration, or high blood pressure
  • Mock indifference: “I don’t care – this test doesn’t matter anyway!”
  • Mind races or feels dull or “muddy”
  • Trouble organizing thoughts, feeling confused or panicked
  • Difficulty reading and understanding questions
  • Trouble following directions
  • Making many careless errors on a test
  • Feeling tension as exam is being passed out
  • Physical symptoms: increased heart rate, shortness of breath, perspiring, dry mouth, muscle tension, headaches, vomiting, or fainting
  • Negative thinking
  • Blanking out on information studied

After the test:

  • Feelings of guilt, anger, depression, or blaming performance on others
  • Recalling information upon leaving the classroom or a short period later that was blanked out during the exam
  • Frustration with grade on the exam despite thorough preparation
  • Pretending the test meant nothing, and discard the result as meaningless

Dealing with Anxiety*

Help your child develop good study habits, manage his time wisely, organize material in a step by step way and then when it is over, to take stock of how it went and learn from that experience. These tips below will help your child face the fact that anxiety is occurring and give him successful tools to help the feeling to subside more quickly.

  • Tell yourself, “I can be anxious later, now is the time to take the exam.”
  • Counter negative thoughts with other, more valid thoughts like, “I don’t have to be perfect.”
  • Tense and relax the muscles throughout your body.
  • Take a couple of slow, deep breaths and try to maintain a positive attitude.
  • Get a drink or go to the bathroom.
  • Ask the instructor a question (but don’t ask for answers).
  • Eat something. A handful of nuts and raisins will give you an energy boost.
  • Do something different. Break your pencil lead, then sharpen it. This allows you to do something physical – and can distract your mind momentarily until you get back on track.
  • There is no such thing as failure– the only failure is not trying at all, so strive to do your personal best!
  • Understand that you will not know every question on the test, but feel confident and give yourself praise for trying, even if you don’t get the score you want.
  • Calm yourself by saying a couple of sentences like: “This test will not permanently affect my life. I’m going to feel calm and relaxed.”

Take Note

Anxiety provides energy to produce some of the your child’s best work! The adrenaline high can be just the impetus to push him over the top!

On the other hand, anxiety can be a learned behavior or habit, draining positive energy and overwhelming your child with the negative symptoms noted above in the section, Recognize the Problem.  In this case, as a parent you can help your child practice, using the success tools listed in the Dealing with Anxiety section.

Come back next week! We will diagnose what causes test anxiety and get to the root of the issue, as well as share how to best deal with it.

Adapted and quoted from Information on Nervousness and Test Anxiety Tips

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