How to Help You Kids with Exam Anxiety
Every one of us has suffered from some sort of anxiety or jitters. Let’s face it, you would have to practically be a rock not to have enjoyed the experience of an upset stomach, cold sweats, nervousness or an array of other equally displeasing physical and/or emotional feelings before something that’s important to us. It’s very natural for us as human beings to want to succeed and therefore carry the fear of failure somewhere in the depths of our very complicated brains. We all know if there’s the potential reward of success, then there’s also the doom of failure. Guess what, it’s no different for our kids. After all, they’re simply younger versions of us. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise when our child complains of an upset stomach on the morning of a test. Anxiety is just as real for them as it is for us.
Being a Parent
As parents, we tend to want to either “fix” things for our children or pretend it’s not a problem at all. Either way, we’re not doing what’s in the best interest of what will support our child’s well being in the long run. We learned to handle our anxieties as we went through them and confronted them. Shouldn’t our children be allowed to benefit from that same kind of growth. Now that’s not to say that we can’t pass on some of our valuable tools for handling some of these issues.
Some children seem to be more prone to having various school-related anxieties. This can range anywhere from children that deal with ADHD to children that have divorced parents, the recent death of a loved one or a list of other traumatic events. Children with a learning challenge struggle with structured academics as it is. It may be hard for them to focus and stay centered in a regular daily classroom lesson, without the “pass or fail” pressure. Now incorporate the possibility of time restraint, proper spelling, total silence, and self-induced pressures… all of this adds up to a distressed child. What would normally be a slight concern, suddenly turns into a monstrous problem for them.
Likewise, children that are faced with turbulent times at home may exhibit different forms of anxiety while in school. Some children even suffer from pre-test anxiety due to having had a poor test result in their past. Maybe the low test score was on an English exam, however now they’re showing up with low test results in Math, which is normally their strong subject, this would be another example of testing anxiety.
Help is on the Way
There’s a multitude of ways that you can support your child through this stressful time. Again, the idea is to give “assistance” to them, not “fix” it. Try to keep the idea of a coach and his team in your mind. The coach gives his players every tool possible to win the game, however, he doesn’t play that game for them.
Make sure your child is taking notes in class. If that’s not possible, then sit down with them and go over the work together, having him take notes as you go. Make sure those notes are in some kind of logical order, are neat and legible to the child. Have him study those notes and then follow up with questions directly related to them.
Listen to your child’s concerns. Acknowledge that we all have things that we get stressed about, however, having concerns doesn’t mean that we can’t succeed. Do not devalue what they have going on with them, it’s real! Let them know that you’re there for them. Over time, they’ll eventually learn that they can succeed even with anxiety. Talk to them about their test-taking plan. Do they read through the entire test first? Do they answer the questions that they’re certain of the answers first and then go back to the rest of the questions? If it’s a multiple choice question and they aren’t certain of the answer, teach them how to eliminate the answers that they know aren’t correct to better narrow down the correct answer.
Explain to your child not to second guess his answers. Yes, he wants to go back through and check his work, however, there’s a fine line between checking your work and second-guessing. Often times we end up changing answers only to find out that the original answer was actually the correct answer.
Find something that helps your child to calm down and center himself. Maybe it’s closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths, maybe it’s holding a marble or a stone in his hand. Whatever it is that works for him and doesn’t go against classroom rules or disrupt classmates, then, by all means, use it. If he believes that he has a pair of underwear that brings him luck, let him wear them. Again, remember they’re just smaller versions of us and we all have our proverbial “lucky pennies”.
Remember that those kids that get added support through a Resource classroom or other means may be eligible for modified tests. There’s a variety of ways that a teacher can do this. Some children need to have their test verbally read to them, or be allowed to verbally answer. Some may need a larger print or fewer questions on each piece of paper. Some may even need to get up and walk around for a few minutes during the test to be able to focus better. Remember, each child’s needs are unique to that child, so you may have to do some experimenting to find what’s going to work for your child.
A large portion of the accomplishments that your child experiences are accomplished through a positive mindset and support from you. We are our child’s biggest advocate and loudest cheerleader. Don’t be afraid to ask for modified learning and test taking tools. Your child is entitled to every tool possible to support him in succeeding in school.