5 Methods for Minimizing Test Anxiety in Kids
As a parent, you know the anxiety children often feel when testing. Complaints about not feeling well with a stomachache, headache or sluggishness are common. Parents who worry about missing something may take their child to the doctor only to receive a healthy check-up, though the child continues to complain about not feeling well. This situation commonly manifests during testing time, and if you live in Texas, your child may soon begin to complain more often due to anxiety about the upcoming STAAR test as well as end of year testing that happens in many schools across the country.
Many parents associate test anxiety with teens during the PSAT/SAT or other school entrance exams, but young children experience it as well. Below are five suggestions to minimize your child’s anxiety and help them feel test-ready before test anxiety becomes an overwhelming problem.
Name their worry out loud. When parents openly ask their children to name their worry, it can help the child work through their fear. The first step to conquering this fear requires helping them understand why their tummy or head hurts. To aid in this process, ask them feeling questions, such as: “What’s your biggest worry about taking the test?” or “How do you feel when you first see the test?”
Encourage positive self-talk. Once children understand what part of testing worries them, you can teach them to use positive self-talk, an internal dialogue that builds confidence and conquers feelings of defeat. Teach them to talk to themselves the same way they would speak with their best friend – with compassion and encouragement. Remind them that the test is just an indicator of how well they’ve learned and that your love does not depend on the results.
Talk with their teacher. Talk to your child’s teacher to help them understand what triggers your child’s anxiety so that they can develop additional strategies for anxiety reduction. For example, children with extreme sensitivity to timed tests may benefit from homework assignments that allow them to practice at home with a timer. Other children may be distracted by noise or panic when their peers finish before them. When the teacher understands your child’s worries, they can offer helpful advice to allow you to prepare your child more effectively.
Teach and model healthy relaxation. Ensure your child remains calm on test day by teaching them how to cope with anxious feelings. Because small children have active imaginations, visualization relaxation works best. Ask your child to imagine a favorite family activity or place while breathing slowly with their eyes closed. Practice this activity several times prior to test day to help them feel confidently in control of anxious thoughts when and/or if they arise.
Build and boost confidence. Suffering from test anxiety lowers children’s confidence. Find areas your child excels in or enjoys such as sports or art. When possible, increase their free time to imagine and play. Kids work out their feelings through play, and when your child is anxious, they need outlets to work through their worries and fears. Build their confidence by reminding them of their strengths, encouraging them to take risks even when fearful and praising their efforts. Additionally, parents who share their own fears and worries normalize their child’s experience, soothing overwhelming feelings.
Parents want their children to feel confident taking tests, but some children are more nervous. Disappointing a parent is a child’s greatest fear; therefore, it is essential to send a clear message. Tell your child that your love is greater than their test performance and practice test-calming tips with them. If your child’s anxiety worsens, it may be helpful to seek a professional mental health specialist. With practice, most children learn to work through their anxiety with their parents’ support. By praising their effort and trusting them to do their best, parents give kids the best opportunity to build confidence in test taking.