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What Parents Can Do About A Child's Test Anxiety

Test is a loaded word and most children know it. While some shrug off the implications of it, others fret and obsess, giving them test taking anxiety. This anxiety, while having many ill effects, most immediately hampers the child’s test taking abilities and reflects upon test scores, which can then inaccurately reflect the child’s knowledge over a subject matter. This uphill battle does not have to be fought alone; parents can help their children with test taking anxiety in various ways.

What Parents Can Do With the Child

Most parents by now know that preparing a healthy breakfast and ensuring that the child has gotten enough sleep are helpful for children the morning of a test. Test preparation can begin far earlier than this, however.

  1. Encourage the child (and help the child, if he or she is willing) to study not the night before the test but over the course of several days or even weeks. True learning takes time; this isn’t about remembering the material long enough to answer the test questions right the next day.

  2. Make sure the child is getting adequate exercise. Exercise relieves stress and produces serotonin in the brain and aids in relaxation, stress-relief, and focus later.

  3. Tell the child that on the test, if he or she doesn’t understand the instructions, to ask the teacher. There is no shame in this, as other students are likely confused, too.

  4. Instruct the child that if he or she doesn’t know the answer to a question, mark it and come back to later after all other questions are answered. This saves time in the long run.

What Parents Can Do On Their Own

  1. Possibly one of the worst things a parent can do to worsen a child’s test taking anxiety is to contribute to it with his or her own anxiety. Tell your child and yourself that it’s just a test. It by no means measure the child’s knowledge, learning capacity, or performance on much of an accurate level, since test scores can be influenced by anxiety, moods, the classroom, the teacher, and more. The child is obviously already fearful of failure rather than treating the test as a challenge. Parents, too, must keep in mind that a test in not the be-all, end-all of the child’s academic career.

  2. Good parents take active interest in their children’s lives, not just when their children are behaving badly. Too many parents only go to visit their child’s school teacher or principal when something has gone wrong. Take every opportunity you can to go regularly to discuss the child’s progress and behavior in class.

  3. Provide your child with a calm living environment in which studying is encouraged. Keep noise to a minimum when the child is studying, for example.

  4. Praise children when they perform well on a test, and encourage them when they do less well than they were hoping. Remind them that your love is unconditional.

  5. Provide your child a healthy diet and atmosphere on a daily basis. A healthy body is generally a healthy mind.

  6. Supply your household with age-appropriate books and magazines for students. Even in today’s technology-centered atmosphere, reading and writing skills are indispensible in both school and careers. A child should learn a new word everyday, and this can be done naturally when reading material is made plentiful.

After your child has taken the test, it’s important to review the outcome and material even if the child performed well. Make a tradition of this and you will find that your child will retain more information through time. This is also a great way to bond with your family—what’s there to complain about spending more time with the kids?


Heather is a freelance writer and the resident blogger for Onlinenursingdegrees.org, an informational website offering tips about online nursing programs.

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