Help Your Child Avoid Test Anxiety

Many parents know when their child is about to have a test at school.  Not because they have the schedule from the teacher, but because they recognize the signs of test anxiety.

Sometimes their child will begin to complain about an upset stomach or a headache, and ask if they can stay home from school.  For some students, test anxiety can spell disaster for their academic life.

There are things parents can do to help their children. “Make it clear to your child that they are not expected to always know every answer,” said Beverly L. Steward, President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics in Wilmington. “Tests specifically measure all levels of thinking and performance, so some will be easier and some will be harder. Do not put undue pressure on your child, but stress that they are to prepare appropriately and do their best.”

Students who suffer from test anxiety tend to worry about success in school, especially doing well on tests.  Instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they concentrate on the idea of failing, which makes them anxious about tests and their own abilities.

Parents try different ways of helping their child prepare for tests. Sandra Cox, mother of 10-year-old Nicholas, a fourth grade student at Brader Elementary School has her own unique method that works for her family.  “I have found that the best way to alleviate

stress and anxiety is prayer. My son and I pray together before bed and

he lets me know of any tests he has the next day, and we focus on his

recall and his remaining calm. It is amazing how this eases his mind,” she said.

Laura Reynolds, a mother from Bear who homeschools her two children, Samantha, 7, and Jason, 10, is a firm believer in using flash cards.  “We have made our own flash cards with the children, and that has helped them score well on most of their tests,” she said.

Finding a regular time for homework helps children finish assignments, and prepares them for taking tests.  The best schedule is one that works for your child and your family. What works well in one household may not work in another. Of course, a good schedule depends in part on your child’s age, as well as individual needs. For instance, one youngster may work best in the afternoon after an hour of play, and another may be more efficient after dinner.

Outside activities, such as sports or music lessons, may mean that you need a flexible schedule. Your child may study after school on some days and in the evening on others. If there isn’t enough time to finish homework, your child may need to drop some outside activity. Homework and studying for tests must be a high priority.

Steward recommends that parents keep in contact with their children’s teachers regularly to learn what they expect in their class.   “Ask the teacher how your child measures up, what areas of strength and non-strength the teacher sees, and how often tests will be administered,” she said.  “Don’t hesitate to ask for study guides, and spend time helping your child preparing for tests at home.”


Tips for Students to Avoid Test Anxiety

  • Do not cram for tests. Studies have shown that a student only remembers about one-fifth of what was memorized the night before a test.
  • Keep up with your homework, and review your material on a daily basis.
  • Take notes when you read, and highlight important sections.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before a test.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast with protein. Avoid sugary cereals and pastries.
  • Try to arrive a few minutes early to the testing room to calm down and gather your thoughts.
  • When taking the actual test, time management is important, as is following directions fully. Do not proceed until you have read everything first, carefully.
  • Do not get distracted. Keep your focus on your test and your mind. If your attention wanders, bring it right back. Do not concern yourself with others and what they are doing.

Source: Back to Basics President and Director, Beverly L. Steward

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