By Amy Steele, LCSW, Courier & Press, February 28, 2017 –
The pressure children feel from standardized testing can cause feelings of stress and anxiety. While low levels of anxiety can motivate students to study and perform well, severe anxiety can make it difficult for a child to go about their daily activities.
Some students experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomachaches, headaches, feeling too hot or too cold, or feeling like their heart is beating rapidly. Others experience emotional symptoms such as “blanking out,” having difficulty paying attention, or experiencing trouble thinking clearly. If your child describes these symptoms, talk to their teacher and the school social worker or school counselor about ways to help them.
Start preparing your child emotionally by understanding their feelings. Talk to them about their feelings about the upcoming test, listen for the level of confidence they seem to have, and ask them what about the test worries them.
Particularly during times of stress, children need extra comfort, nurturing and understanding to help them feel secure and confident. Build time into the day to give them some one-on-one attention.
Encouraging your child to talk about how they feel and listening to them with empathy assures them their feelings are normal. Let them know you have confidence in them and believe they can do it. Help them rehearse positive thoughts and statements, such as “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll show what I know.”
Teach them ways to relax or stay calm before or during the test by practicing at home, possibly before bedtime. Have the child take a slow deep breath while spelling out their name, one slow deep breath as they say or think each letter. Another way to help them relax is to talk through and imagine a scenario where they go to school, have a good day and feel calm as they take the test and do well.
Remind your child of the strengths, talents, and personal qualities that make them special and unique. Make sure they know those qualities go far beyond what a standardized test can measure. Be specific so they can remember these valued qualities when they need to remember them most.
Finally, express your unconditional love to your child. This gives them confidence, security and a relational bond that is a great boost for their hearts and their brains.