We’ve all been there at some point in our lives whether it was during middle school, high school, a course we needed to take for work, or a job interview itself: We sit down in order to be tested in some way and then completely forget everything we prepared or the materials we studied.
This phenomenon is better known as test anxiety, and it is a very real thing.
As a parent, you might reach a point when you realize that your child is actually suffering from text anxiety. For instance, if you have a bright, intelligent, confident child but they bomb all of their tests in school, then they might have test anxiety.
When you begin trying to help your child learn about and cope with their test anxiety, you may find yourself thinking that—in the words of P.J. O’Rourke—it seems like “everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” We all feel like this on occasion, especially when we’re navigating the challenge of meeting our child’s specific needs.
Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks you can use right off the bat to help relieve your child’s test anxiety.
Help Them Study
Sometimes a child is only experiencing test anxiety because they legitimately do not understand the material upon which they are being tested. So, before resorting to any other method for relieving test anxiety, it may be beneficial to simply ask your child if this is the case with them: Do they understand the material?
If it is the case that your child tells you that they do not, in fact, understand the material, then find a way to help them learn it.
To better help your child learn what they need to learn, you should first identify which method your child prefers when it comes to learning. They might be a visual learner, a hands-on learner, or an audio learner meaning that they can easily absorb information when they hear it read out loud.
Depending upon which method your child chooses, you can then design exercises and resources that will help them fully understand any and all materials. This could come in the form of diagrams, slideshows, flashcards, or even asking your child to act as the teacher and teach you the study materials.
Ease Their Mind
Although your child is bound to encounter tests at all stages of their life, perhaps they are experiencing test anxiety—particularly in middle school or high school—because of all the weight and power those tests appear to hold.
Children are often led to believe from a young age that the way that they test determines their value as a person and either opens up or limits the options of what they will be able to achieve in the future.
It’s harsh, but true.
Because of all this pressure sitting on your child’s shoulders, they may simply need to hear that—even though it seems like all tests are important and the results matter—tests are not as big of a deal as they initially seem. In the grand scheme of things, one bad test score is not going to affect their future.
So, by easing your child’s mind and giving them a realistic perspective on tests—who knows, it’s possible that they may even have test anxiety because they are worried about disappointing you—you’re opening up space for them to sometimes fail but always grow from their experiences.
They might even do better on their test if they know that their future—and your approval—is not riding on a silly test score!
Teach Them Calming Exercises
Calming exercises are not only an excellent thing to keep in your back pocket for test-taking purposes but also for life, in general. According to clergyman Charles Swindoll, “each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” And calming exercises will be one of the most useful deposits you make in your child’s memory bank!
Once your child is comfortable with the study materials and you’ve eased their mind regarding the insignificance of one bad test score, the only things left to teach them are calming exercises that they can use to remain grounded while taking their test. Some common calming exercises include:
- Deep breathing
- Clearing the mind
- Relaxing the body
- Closing the eyes
- Taking a break
Now, “taking a break” during a test seems somewhat counterintuitive, right?
However, occasionally all you need to do during a test is put down the pencil, completely forget about the test for a moment or two, and then return to the test with a fresh pair of eyes. Everybody needs a break now and then and sometimes the perfect time is during a test!
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