How to help children with test anxiety

Testing is an inevitable part of children’s school life. They allow students’ knowledge, skills and progress to be assessed. But for some children, the tests are a source of intense stress and anxiety. They may fear failure, disappointment, or judgment. They may feel unable to cope with pressure or expectations. They may have physical and emotional symptoms that affect their well-being and performance.

Test anxiety is generally thought of as excessive “nervous feeling” that interferes with student performance. Symptoms of test anxiety can be divided into four broad categories: physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive¹. Children may have physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, sweating, and shortness of breath or feelings of fear, depression, and helplessness. They may also exhibit behaviors such as avoidance, procrastination or cheating or negative thoughts such as self-doubt, criticism or generalization².

Test anxiety can have a negative impact on students’ self-confidence, self-esteem and motivation. It can also affect their learning, memory and concentration. It can even lead to a vicious circle where anxiety leads to poor outcomes, which reinforces anxiety, which leads to further poor outcomes.

Fortunately, there are ways to help children with test anxiety overcome their difficulties and pass their tests. Here are some tips for parents and teachers:

– Prepare children for the tests by explaining the purpose, format and content of the tests. Help them review the material ahead of time and plan their study time. Encourage them to use effective learning strategies such as repetition, elaboration or self-testing.
– Build children’s self-confidence by reminding them of their strengths, successes and progress. Help them set realistic goals and focus on improving themselves rather than comparing themselves to others. Value their effort and perseverance rather than their result².
– Help children manage their stress and emotions by teaching them relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization or meditation. Encourage them to express their feelings and seek support from you or other trusted people. Help them adopt realistic and positive thinking by replacing negative thoughts with more balanced and constructive thoughts.
– Support children during and after testing by providing a calm and comfortable environment for them to take the assessments. Help them prepare mentally by doing a quick review, re-reading instructions and checking their materials. Encourage them to use coping strategies during the test such as pausing, rereading their answers, or moving on to easier questions. After the test, praise them for their participation and discuss with them what they learned, what they did well and what they can improve. Avoid criticizing or punishing them for their mistakes or grades.

Test anxiety is a common and serious problem in children. It can affect their well-being and school performance. But there are ways to help them overcome their difficulties and pass their assessments. Parents and teachers have an important role to play in preparing, reinforcing, supporting and accompanying children with test anxiety. By showing understanding, patience and encouragement, they can help reduce test anxiety and help children thrive.

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