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  • Amy

Test Anxiety: Tips for overcoming test stress

Whether it's a spelling test, a math quiz or state standardized testing, many children feel stressed over testing. Here's a quick rundown of what to look for and how to handle it. If you’re one of the lucky parents without a “test stress” kid, keep reading, you will find some great tips that will help your child handle anxiety in other areas of their lives!

Signs of stress

If your child is suddenly complaining of headaches, stomach upset, dizziness, or wanting to skip school, it could be a sign of stress. Other things to watch for include trouble sleeping, lack of appetite, irritability, sudden homework meltdowns and change in attitude.

Take a Proactive Approach

Teachers are preparing their students at school and parents can do the same from home. Most stress comes from a feeling of uncertainty. Our role is to help our child gain perspective. You may want to share…

  • The test is simply a measurement of what you know and what you have yet to learn.

  • This is a guide for your teachers to know what needs to be taught or reviewed.

  • Your score does not reflect on the type of student you are.

  • One test score won’t necessarily reflect all of the learning you have done throughout the year!

Have your child write out their worries by finishing this sentence:“I am worried about the test because…” (i.e., I may not finish or I may not remember everything my teacher taught me). Discuss strategies to overcome specific obstacles (see below). Now suggest they tear up their worry sheet and throw it away, it will give them a sense of control and power.

Prepare for the testing

1. Teach positive self-messaging. “I will do my best and that is good enough” or “I am smart and can do well.”

2. Teach relaxation breathing — empower him with control of his own body

  • Begin by having him envision a calm place (such as the beach). Have your child think about the sounds he’d hear, the smells he’d encounter and how the sun would feel on his skin.

  • Have your child practice slow, intentional breathing. Breathe in to a slow count of 4, then exhale for a slow count of 4. Help your child feel the slowing of his heart rate, it will give him a sense of control and positive feedback from his own actions.

  • Have him envision his calm place during the breathing practice

  • Practice muscle tension/relaxation. This also gives a sense of control and awareness of your own power over stress.

Give strategies for during the test

  • Look over the test, attack the easiest problems first (if that’s an option). This gives a sense of mastery and control.

  • Frustration can cause anxiety. Teach your child to use the relaxed breathing technique (including the vision of his calm place) to help him refocus.

  • Suggest a mantra to repeat: “I can do this” or “I am smart”

  • Tell your child to take his time and pace himself

  • “Keep your eyes on your test!” Seeing other students stressed may increase your child’s own stress level.

Most importantly, reassure your child that you love him no matter how he scores on the test. Some children may believe their value is based on test scores or grades. Sometimes just a hug, a “high five” or some words of encouragement is all they need to go into testing with confidence!

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