Test Anxiety - How can we parents help children ?

  • 4 min read

Stress as well as anxiety has become a common household term. We see even children using it. When a child experiences a high level of stress or anxiety before an exam or a test or that matter any performance, then that is known as test or performance anxiety. Most of us as parents take it very casually and do not consider this as a big issue. We usually say,

"It is so so common I also had when I was young."

"It happens just before an exam and then my child is alright"

All of this is true but the bigger question is "Is it ok to be this way?"

Some amount of anxiety is good. this is known as eustress and it gives a good adrenaline boost and definitely helps in performing well. This keeps us agile. Some nervousness before a big day is ok. But what if it crosses it boundary??

  • A well prepared child may not be able to perform up to his optimum potential.
  • Physical symptoms like racing of heart, feeling of nausea, heavily sweating may affect the child's physical and mental health.
  • After a performance child might start feeling upset if he or she is not able to perform well just because of nervousness inspite of being well prepared.
  • This anxiety will act as a hinderance in his or her future road map.
  • There is also a possibility that this anxiety will remain as an inseparable element in the child's personality. There are chances that the child is fearful about his rank or result. And this apprehension leading to stress in the exam. We should teach our children to focus only on the effort rather than what is going to be in the future.

Everything is about that right amount isn't it ? A pinch of salt adds to the taste and the same if it goes a little more than a pinch may spoil the taste of food Similarly if the stress level increases, so much so that the child is getting anxious, the child is not definitely able to focus on his or her performance. The body also starts throwing physical symptoms and the child is not able to handle it.

Test or performance anxiety is such that when it happens once then it keeps reoccurring before every test and becomes a vicious circle. After two or three occurrences the child enters into a state of learned helplessness when the child starts feeling that he can in no way change the situation whatsoever.

When the parents find the child getting really anxious before the exam or performance, for the first time, this is the best time for them to take notice of it and intervene. The earlier the better.

It's important for parents to be aware and also help the child before it falls into the vicious loop of being anxious before every exam or test or for that matter every performance.

Now What can we as parents do? How do we help the child??

1. Avoid striving for perfection- We as parents should not always push our children to strive for perfection. The more wiser thing to do would be to understand the correct level of the child's capacity and set that as a goal. Sometimes if goals are unrealistic then it creates an undue pressure on a child. The child puts his or her efforts but not able to achieve the goal.

It makes him dissatisfied.

2. Being under prepared can also make the child nervous so being prepared is also a key thing.

This may seem to be very obvious but confidence level rises if preparation is done well. Help the child forming a proper timetable and help then prepare concepts according to the priority. In the timetable also ensure that there are breaks in between sessions.

3. Cramming up concepts and ideas just before a day of exam is not a very good idea. It might some children but children who get anxious must avoid it. It is important to be calm and restful day and a good night sleep before the day of exam.

4. Getting early to the test center is always a good thing to do as it helps the child to slowly adapt to the test environment. But on the other hand if the child rushes to the center then an already anxious child may become even more anxious.

5. Say if the child has not prepared well for the exam, then also it is important to keep them calm and advising them to brush up concepts that they are confident about.

4. Avoiding scolding and criticizing children before the examination as it may alleviate their stress levels. Feedback can be communicated to them after the exam is over.

5. Sometimes i have seen children getting extremely nervous in the exam hall, seeing other fellow students writing and borrowing extra sheets of paper. Keep telling the child to focus on their work and not to look around.

6. For relieving anxiety we could also accompany them to the exam hall and also engage them in more lighter conversation.

7. Deep breathing also helps. Help the child practice deep breathing exercises so that they are more focused and also relaxed at the same time.

8. As far as possible we as parents should avoid comparisons. Pitching your child with another child is in no way going to help your child.

9. Explain to your children about the possibility of getting a few curve balls. Always it is not necessary that the exam or test is the way they expect it to be. The could be a few bouncers. Even if they don't know an answer teach them how to do an intelligent guess or write a smart answer. Also teach them not to waste time. As them to mark them and come back to them later.

10. Whether it's exam or test for an other performance it important to build a healthy level of self esteem in them so that they face it more easily.

I truly believe in these words "Believe that you can and you are already half way there".

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Author / Speaker  →

Freelance Clinical psychologist and on call consultant psychologist for Athulya senior care. Expert Panelist for online mental health portals for PARENTUNE and RYTLIFE
A mental wellness therapist/ counsellor/ psychologist. I believe in maintaining healthy mind enriched with healthy postive thoughts.
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