It’s that time of year when public schools are busy with standardized testing and colleges and universities are in the midst of giving final exams. While every student feels a certain level of anxiety about testing, there are some things that parents can do to help quell test anxiety and reinforce realistic expectations.
According to Thomas J Huberty (2010), “When severe, test anxiety can have significant negative effects on a student’s ability to perform at optimal level.” Recognizing test anxiety for what it is and taking steps to provide support, relaxation techniques, and encouragement to students is easy when you know how. Here are 4 tips to help quell test anxiety:
1. Get enough rest – Be sure to help kids or young adults get eight to ten hours of sleep the night before the test. That way, brains will be alert and energetic enough for the extended periods of focus testing requires.
2. Eat healthy – Everyone should practice healthy nutrition all of time, but it is especially important around exam time. Brain foods include snacks and breakfast that are rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Junk food rich in sugar only provides short bursts of energy with subsequent crashes. Eating healthy means your brain is alert and focused throughout the test.
3. Consider the possibilities – No potential outcome warrants extreme fear in the grand scheme of things. Any scores that are lower than anticipated do not mean that students are a failure or that there will have been no further opportunity for success. Help your student consider the possibility that the results will turn out to be better than anyone expected.
4. Do your best – Help students understand that no one can do anything more than put their best foot forward. Show them how to focus on doing everything in their power to ensure that the worst doesn’t happen. Walk them through visualizing a successful experience and the most positive results. That way, you are both having a dress rehearsal for success.
Kids want to do their best. Parents want to help them do their best but also to guide them to place more emphasis on their EFFORT rather than the grade or score. Dr. Renee says, “Parents give your own grades for effort (did your child study the night before, or break down studying over several days…grade accordingly).” Dr. Renee and the staff at Child and Family focus on test anxiety by teaching children deep breathing techniques they can do to reduce overall stress; especially stress related to test or performance anxiety.
Dr. Renee loves loves loves biodots. These are cool little stickers children can put on their arms or hand in school and manage their anxiety or stress in school. It works like a mood ring and is an indicator when a child needs to access their stress management techniques. Helping kids learn to relax in a playful, fun, and enjoyable way means that they will more easily remember how to use the techniques in an actual testing situation.
On the Child and Family Psychology web site, there are guided imagery exercises with audio downloads for relaxation:
Visualization is great too. When parents help students visualize success and support them by providing healthy, nutritious foods and getting adequate rest – you are showing your love and support in ways that can be nothing but positive. Everyone gets a little nervous before taking a test, but with the right support and parental guidance, everyone can get the right result!