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Helping Children to Overcome Test Anxiety

August 27, 2016 / one comment, on PARENTING BLOGS

How to Overcome the Test Anxiety?

Dealing with test anxiety can be stressful for both children and their parents. One of the most important things to help your child with these issues is first to talk to them about their particular experience. For example, is the child anxious because they do not understand the material? scared of repercussions from doing poorly? the testing environment as such is with too little or too much noise?

Give your child reassurance that your love isn’t contingent on any factors particularly on test performance. Another tool is to have practice tests at home so that the child can get used to testing in a safer feeling environment.

The more anxious you make your child feel, the more anxiety they will have. To admit that the anxiety is a problem is one thing, but to continually blame it for poor grades is another. Parents need to be encouraging and foster positive thoughts about the whole test taking process.

One thing parents can do is set up mock tests at home so that the child get used to the test taking the environment. That will make them feel comfortable taking the test on test day. Many tutoring companies offer mock tests for a small fee. The more a child goes through the process of taking an exam, the more comfortable they will be with it.

Helping Children to Overcome Test Anxiety


Your child arrived at the exam confident about the material. But if they have test anxiety, taking the test is the most difficult part of the equation. Share these tips from the experts with your child if they are anxious about an upcoming test. You can click on your favorite expert’s name to jump straight into their advice on this topic.

Michelle Dempsey, M.S., CPRW.
Dr. Lisa Long a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
Dr. Akila Sadasivan (Ph.D. in Child Psychology)and Dr. Aditi Gupta (Family Medicine).
Dr. Richard Horowitz, Parenting Coach and Author.
Elisabeth Stitt, Parenting Coach.
Eulynn Gargano, Head of Tutoring and Test Preparation Future Wise Consulting.
Carrie Krawiec. A licensed marriage and Family Therapist.
Duc Luu is the CEO and Founder of The Edge Learning Centre.
Dr. Nancy Mramor, Licensed Psychologist, Award-winning Author.
Tamar Gordon, Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

Michelle Dempsey, M.S., CPRW. A former educator with dual masters in childhood education and special education, mom and a parenting blogger. You can connect with her on her website, www.michelledempsey.com.

I happen to speak a lot to the fact that anxiety in children, of any kind, needs to be dealt with in a child-centered manner.

When a child appears to have test anxiety, which is more common than it isn’t, it’s important to take the time to talk about their feelings, in a compassionate way. Instead of passing these feelings as usual jitters that will go away on their own, recognizing that these feelings can exacerbate without being dealt with at the onset can mean the difference between a one-time occurrence and a life-long fear of testing.

Talk one-on-one, openly and honestly, and address the what if questions. You’ll like to hear what if I forget an answer? Explaining to a student that the outcome of this issue does not mean the automatic failure of an entire exam can automatically put them at ease and allow for a more relaxed test-taking process.

Dr. Lisa Long is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Specializing in diagnosis and treatment, psychological evaluation, Forensic assessment, and Providing expert testimony. You can visit her website at DrLisaLong.com.

How to Overcome Test Anxiety - Dr. Lisa Long

How to Overcome Test Anxiety – Dr. Lisa Long

I have served in leadership roles for the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Juvenile Justice. Owns a private practice in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina and provide evaluation and treatment. I focus on psychological assessment and Psycho-educational evaluations for the school systems.

Providing a child with direct-age appropriate explanations of what is happening and what to expect significantly reduces anxiety. I often work with parents and children to Help them prepare for and reduce test anxiety for standardized testing.

Some of the techniques we have found effective in my practice are:

 

  • Allowing the child to explore the environment before the testing situation.
  • Normalize the anxiety surrounding testing.
  • Ask the child HOW you can help them feel more comfortable.
  • ASK the child what feels scary about this test and remind them of past success.
  • Allow the child to ask questions openly.
  • Give the child the opportunity to understand they have an active role in the testing.
  • Help the child identify their strengths before testing. So they are entering the testing environment with a feeling of great self-worth.
  • Let the child help create a study schedule, help the child determine what would make him/she feel more prepared.
  • Provide the child with any material resources that they believe are helpful (special pen or pencil that the child feels is a vital tool for them).
  • Encourage the child to practice test taking scenarios and allow them to ‘practice’ test-taking.
  • Ensure the child is set up for success by helping them get ample sleep and a hearty breakfast.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY reminds the child that the test is only a test and their worth is so much more than that.
  • Provide the child with an abundance of positive feedback and support before testing, reminding them of your unconditional love.

I truly am amazed when I see how reducing a child’s test anxiety can significantly improve their scores on standardized measures. I typically meet with a child alone for one session before any psycho-educational testing just because I know what an impact their feelings towards testing can have.

Dr. Akila Sadasivan (Ph.D. in Child Psychology) and Dr. Aditi Gupta (Family Medicine). You can connect with them at  justdoc.com.

Test Anxiety

 

  • Caused by unusual stress put on students to excel in an individual grading system. Most parents & teachers want their children to be perfect in academics.
  • Best ways to deal with this anxiety is to calm the child of any fears arising from the outcome of the tests.
    Show support for the child’s efforts in preparation for the test so that it boosts confidence in your child.
  • Encouraging group study is a very positive step in reinforcing the child’s belief in himself. By studying with others, he/she gets a better.  This changes the mindset of giving tests into a more healthy competition rather than a mundane task.
  • Music is a great mood uplifting experience. Even for children as early as one month old, it produces a rhythm that calms the soul and distracts from any fears. When a child is seen anxious, playing soft instrumental music is proven to be helpful.

Dr. Richard Horowitz, Parenting Coach and author of Family Centered Parenting. Please visit GrowingGreatRelationships.com

Two approaches – proactive first followed by stress reduction at test time. Proactive is making sure your child is prepared. Studying has been done including practice testing. If it is a standardized test that does not benefit from preparation parents need to stress that the test is routine, and they need not do anything to make the child feel that it is a high stakes endeavor. Example do not tell your child to go to bed early, to make sure they are well rested for the test. This type of advice more often than not increases anxiety.

Time of test includes teaching your child relaxation techniques (visualization, breath control, mindfulness) that they can employ during the testing situation if they start to feel anxious.

The key is minimizing the fight or flight mechanism that results in the thinking part of our brain to shut down. Lowering the temperature of the fear before and during the test is essential.

Elisabeth Stitt, Joyful Parenting Coaching. A teacher for 25 years and a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach. You can connect with Elisabeth Stitt on her website, elisabethstitt.com.

How to Overcome Test Anxiety - Elisabeth Stitt

How to Overcome Test Anxiety – Elisabeth Stitt

Dealing with Test Anxiety in Children

 
Children get anxious about tests because they see it as an all or nothing proposition: They either fail or succeed, and they tend to take the label on as a characteristic of themselves. In other words, instead of saying, “I failed this test,” they think to themselves, “I am a failure.” Looked at through this lens, it is natural that children would not want to subject themselves to an exercise that decides who they are.

To combat test anxiety, to deal with the immediate symptoms, parents can help develop a growth mindset in children. This is in addition to teaching kids mindfulness techniques such as breathing, meditation, yoga. To do this, parents need to praise process, improvement, and effort. Kids need to learn that no one event or action defines us in life. Rather, it is actions over time—how we learn and grow—that define us. By focusing on process, improvement, and effort, test grades no longer seem like random events.

Kids develop concrete strategies to approach their work and even test taking itself. When kids go into a test with the attitude of “This time I am going to try X, and if X doesn’t work, next time I am going to try Y,” then they look beyond the power of one test. They understand that they themselves are in process and that as long as they are improving over time by trying new ways of succeeding and not giving up even when it is hard, that they will get there in the long run.

Role of Parents

 
Parents can offer a lot of reassurance like “This is hard right now, but it will get easier with time.” They might remind a child, “You didn’t use to be able to do X, and look at how well you do that now.” First and foremost, at the outcome of a test or competition, parents can help develop a growth mindset by not focusing on the numbers, but how the child processed.

They might ask, “Which part did you enjoy most? Which part was most challenging?  What are you going to do next time?” Compare these questions to “What was your grade? How did you do compared to the rest of the class? Did you win?” The first questions require a child to think and reflect. The second questions reduce a child to a rank.

Eulynn Gargano, Head of Tutoring and Test Preparation Future Wise Consulting. Please visit futurewiseconsulting.com

Having been in the education industry for over ten years, I’ve seen many variations along the spectrum of test anxiety, and I’ve found several strategies that help in any situation! The first step is preparation. This, of course, includes preparing for the content of the test, but also the purpose of the test. If you’re able to convey the function of the test in terms they can understand, your child can put the test into some perspective.

MIND

 
Mindfulness seems to be a buzz word in today’s society – and it applies to test anxiety as well as general anxiety. Becoming mindful in test prep means being able to visualize the process and knowing what roadblocks may come up and how to appropriately work with them. Before any drill, practice test or real exam, I have my students take the time to close their eyes and picture the room they’ll be testing in, the temperature, proctor and each section of the test. We walk through problems they’ve seen before as well as potential variations that they have not seen. We also plan deep breathing and stretch breaks throughout the test so that they have both a physical and mental reprieve to look forward to.

BODY

 
Another essential piece that many families overlook is the physical preparation the child needs. Children need appropriate sleep hours for their age, which needs to be followed strictly in the week leading up to any high-stakes test. Food choices are also extremely important. We want to nourish their bodies and minds with whole foods, brain boosting fruits and veggies and ensure that their tummies are settled and content when we test. The routines of sleep and healthy eating can regulate the body’s tendencies toward any anxieties they feel about an upcoming test.

Carrie Krawiec. A licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, MI and Executive Director of Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. birminghammaple.com.

How to Overcome Test Anxiety - Carrie Krawiec

How to Overcome Test Anxiety – Carrie Krawiec

I specialize in helping parents reduce problematic behaviors, problem solving, and encouraging adaptive behaviors.

Too much anxiety about taking a test is commonly referred to as test anxiety though there is no specific diagnosis of test anxiety unless the person develops a specific phobia of tests. A bit of anxiety about taking tests is a good thing, its considered positive stress–positive because our response to this form of stress is normal, appropriate and sign our body is doing its job.

Research even shows a bit of anxiety improves performance. However too high of anxiety can reduce overall performance because it causes difficulty to think, remember, organize thoughts, stay focused, we may having to wonder thoughts or draw blanks on things we know.

When it comes to replacing negative thinking, we must shine the light on What we want to grow. That is if we focus on our negative thoughts we are going to get more of them. To focus on positive, reasonable, or alternative thoughts takes a bit of effort but will make us feel more relaxed long term. Help guide your kid. If they say something global, negative, or anxious like If I fail this test I won’t get into college.

Help them replace their Anxiety  with five Reasonable Thoughts.

 

  • You are not a failing student. So you are not likely to fail even if you do get a score that is lower than what you want.
  • Colleges look beyond one exam in one class.
  • I have prepared for this test.
  • I have three more nights of studying a head of me.
  • If I do less than I am prepared for there is always another exam, more homework points, etc. I can earn down the road.
  • If I do fail, I will learn something about this experience that will help me succeed in the future.

The road most traveled is the road quickest traveled so when it comes to negative, worrisome thoughts we tend to jump to our most anxious conclusions first. Help guide your child down another path. If they look at these five alternative thoughts, have them rank them in order from most true to least true. Their worrisome thought should be the least true one or at the very least near the bottom.

Help them to set Reasonable Goals.

 
If they are thinking in black and white terms like failure versus success, help them to identify a small, reachable goal.  Like making a few points better than the last exam and assist them to determine the steps they can do to achieve that purpose and then encourage and congratulate small victories.

The best goal is going to be something they can control. Like I am going to set aside 25 minutes a night across the semester for extra studying. Getting straight as may be too big of a goal and outside of their control if a teacher is a stricter grader or no curve is used, etc.

Duc Luu is the CEO and Founder of The Edge Learning Centre. A Hong Kong based holistic education company offering academic tutoring, test preparation, and admissions consulting.

He has many years as a Test Prep Instructor, SAT Coordinator, and Principal Consultant. As well as working in University Admissions for Kaplan Educational Centers USA and Hong Kong and as the master trainer for The Princeton Review Hong Kong.

The more practice tests you can get your kids to do under simulated test conditions, the more comfortable your children will be with timing when the real test is upon them.

Practicing Tests  under Simulated Test Conditions

 

  • First, prepare kids by doing 2-3 practice tests untimed, concentrating on getting correct answers.
  • Second, have them complete 2-3 practice exams timed, but giving them 10-15% more time than usual, and then decrease in increment by 5% until you get to the exact time required.
  • Third, do part two under replicated real conditions, such as if the exam is in the morning on a Saturday, then do it in the morning on Saturday and not Friday evening.
  • Fourth, worry about getting the test taking process right rather than getting the questions right because you want your kids to be able to replicate the process without necessarily judging themselves against the outcome.
  • Finally, remind yourself and your children it’s only a test. Get them to sleep early the night before, feed them a good nutritious breakfast, and try to have them relax beforehand to help calm their mind!

Dr. Nancy Mramor, Licensed Psychologist, Award-winning Author of Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life. Please visit  realconsciousliving.com

I have worked with the kids in the school setting for over 25 years first as a teacher and then as an educational psychologist, in daily contact with students, teachers, and parents. Even lawyers taking the bar exam and doctors taking their certificate boards have come for help with this important issue!

Test anxiety is a reaction that occurs during studying for or taking tests. A child may become unable to think clearly, blocking the ability to recall information or process test questions. Physical symptoms include all of the major symptoms of stress such as fidgeting, sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, mental disorganization and avoidance. More advanced symptoms that involve physical discomfort, such as sweating, stomach or a headache, or tightly clenching the jaw producing TMJ.

Test Anxiety is based on the need to perform either due to personal needs for success or Outside pressures.

 
The personal needs may come from feelings of perfectionism, competition with peers or siblings. They involve a need to perform well to gain or maintain self-esteem.

The outside pressures may be from parents, a demanding academic curriculum and college preparatory expectations.
It is also possible that the child is struggling academically and may need special accommodations during test taking, in order to reduce stress. Such as taking the test in a different room, having additional time to complete the test, or a chance to take the test orally, if the reading level of the test is too challenging.

  • As parents and teachers, be sure that you are offering support but not pressure. When a child feels pressure test anxiety gets worse. Check to see if they need a tutor, if the material is too difficult, or challenging.
  • Before the test and any study periods, have the child close their eyes and breath deeply for from one to two minutes. Then once they are relaxed have them picture themselves studying calmly, and then taking the test calmly and successfully. Ask them to think of a word that goes along with the image of relaxed test taking. Ask them to finalize the relaxation exercise by seeing themselves passing the test.
  • During the test, if they become nervous they can recall the picture and word that they established to see themselves taking the test calmly and successfully.

Tamar Gordon, Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Please visit tamargordonpsychology.com

Test Anxiety is a physiological fight or flight response.

 
When we feel threatened or in danger, our bodies respond with a rush of adrenalin and cortisol, increased heart rate, decreased digestion, and increased muscle tension. The image that comes to mind is a rabbit in the headlights. It is a hard-wired response designed to keep us safe from predators. In modern times, there are fewer actual predators and more cognitively stressful situations, such as tests, that frighten us and cause this response.

As a parent, it is important to understand that your child is not freezing up on purpose and to listen empathically to what he or she is scared of. After discussing the fears, You can try to problem-solve responses and ways of coping. You can also practice the scary situation, so that is becoming less overwhelming.

For example, if the stimulus that is anxiety provoking is fear of running out of time, you and your child could agree to practice dealing with this by doing homework with a timer and seeing if she can beat the clock. Set it up within an active framework, using lots of praise and collaboration, as well as rewards for success.

Related Articles

 
School Anxiety Solutions to Empower Your Child.
Childhood Stress – Symptoms and Management.
Creating Low Stress Environment for Children.

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Helping Children to Overcome Test Anxiety
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Dealing with test anxiety can be stressful for both children and their parents. Leading Experts discussing effective techniques in combating test anxiety !
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One comment

    Dr. James Millhouse

    September 6, 2016

    My book, “the parents manual of sport Psychology” discusses skills children or anyone can use to be more successful in an situation. It has a chapter that discusses and provides solutions for performance anxiety that applies equally to sports, testing, or any other performance demand a child may face.

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