Test Anxiety: What Parents Can Do to Help Their Child

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Now that we’re a couple months into the school year, the workload may be starting to take its toll on your child—and your family. This is especially true if your child is a perfectionist or someone who worries a lot. Students like this are overly concerned about their future and tend to be extremely self-critical. If your child falls into this category, you know it.

This type of behavior may be particularly noticeable during tests. In fact, test anxiety occurs when a person worries excessively about performing well on a test. While just about everyone has experienced a mild case of the “butterflies” before a big test, a case of test anxiety is much worse than that. Severe test anxiety can affect a person both mentally and physically.

Unfortunately, the more a person thinks about everything that could go wrong, the worse it gets. At some point, the negative thoughts are so distracting that it becomes difficult to do well on the test. Sounds awful, right? Fortunately, there are a few things parents can do to help their child. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Encourage your child. If your child is overly anxious about taking a test, it’s probably related to fear of failure. You can help to alter those feelings by praising your child for what he does well. If he feels good about himself, he’s more likely to do well in other areas.
  • Chill out. If you’re putting too much emphasis on your child’s academic performance, that could be fueling the anxiety. Remember that it’s only one test, and there will be many other opportunities for your child to demonstrate what he’s learned.
  • Keep it in perspective. Tests are not a perfect measurement of your child’s ability. And not everyone responds well to a pen-and-paper method of measurement. There’s also a chance that your child may not be feeling well on the day of the test, or that he is struggling with something emotionally.
  • Insist on healthy eating and sleeping habits. Kids who are well rested tend to perform better in school. The same is true of eating right. If your child is sleepy and hungry, chances are he will be too distracted to concentrate on the test.
  • Make sure your child goes to school. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s hard for a student to do well in school if he isn’t there. It takes some effort to perform well, and your child must do his part.
  • Help your child prepare. While you can’t learn the material for your child, you can encourage good study habits and communicate regularly with his or her teacher. If your child is struggling to understand the material, it’s important to catch the problem early and get help.
  • Raise a reader. Reading helps facilitate comprehension, which in turn builds confidence. A child with a strong vocabulary is better prepared to deal with new words that may appear on a test.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.