Students face immense pressure when it comes to taking exams, making test anxiety a very real battle. Sadly, much of this pressure comes from adults like teachers and parents who want to see their students get college invitations, scholarships, and high-paying jobs. Here at The Tenney School, however, we believe it is time to change this mindset. Success looks different for each student, and support is always more healthy than pressure. So, how can we reverse the damage? Here are five ways you can help your student overcome test anxiety.
Teach Them Calming Techniques and Self Affirmations for Test Anxiety
You probably want to get to the root of your student’s anxiety right away. You want a heart-to-heart chat to help them understand that they do not need to be worried. However, while this conversation should happen eventually, anxiety puts someone in a “freeze, fight, or flight” mode. The brain cannot process logic and reason until the mind and body are calm. So, before you address the deep-seated reasons for anxiety, you must help your student deal with its effects. What can they do in the moment when a rush of fear or self-doubt seizes them? Help your students fight anxiety by giving them tools to channel their nervous energy. Teach your students breathing techniques and practice self-affirmation daily. These habits help your student confront the paralyzing effects of anxiety on a day-to-day basis.
Remind Them What Tests Are For (And What They Are Not For)
Unfortunately, modern society has built a huge wall of expectations around the test-taking process. Whether or not they realize it, your student may be absorbing all the stress. It is our job to do better. Teachers at The Tenney School are already working hard to create a healthy concept of test-taking, but you as the parent have the biggest impact on your young person’s mind. Remind your student that their performance on a test does not define who they are.
Test scores do not determine their value. In fact, tests do not necessarily even represent how smart they are. Test-taking is simply one way to develop quick thinking skills, recall, and the ability to work under pressure. It also helps organizations (like colleges) categorize student’s strengths and weaknesses. While it might feel like doing well on a test would mean the world, your student needs to know that they are intelligent in their own unique way.
Show Them How to Care for Their Bodies
Physical health has a huge impact on mental health. Although taking care of your body alone does not eliminate anxiety, it is an important piece of the puzzle in fighting it. It is easy for students of any age to forget to take care of their bodies, especially when facing the mental strain of upcoming exams. You get to be their advocate, helping them live holistically. This could look like making sure a filled water bottle is in their backpack so they can hydrate easily throughout the day. It might look like going on a bike ride so they can rest their mind while getting exercise and fresh air. It might look like laying down boundaries for an early bedtime so that they can get the rest they need. Caring for their bodies will go a long way in caring for their minds.
Help Them Visualize Success Instead of Catastrophe
Our mind can be our own best friend or worst enemy. And your student needs to realize that their mind is a powerful place. Like any human, they are probably envisioning the worst when it comes to test taking. Invasive thoughts fill their mind: “What if I fail? What if freeze and forget everything I have studied? What if my parents/teachers are disappointed in me?” If your student spends enough time in this mindset, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, and here is the good news, it works the other way around as well. When your student visualizes success they are more likely to actually do well. Counter the catastrophizing with words like this: “What if I get a perfect score? What if I win a scholarship from the college I want to attend? What if my parents/teachers are proud of my hard work no matter the results?”
Support Them During Times of Preparation
Last but not least, your child simply needs your support and love as they put in the effort. The little things go a long way when your student is studying for exams. Cook their favorite foods. Bring them study treats. Help them go over their flashcards (or whatever would be most helpful to them during their preparation). Empathize when they are frustrated and encourage them on a daily basis. As a parent, you have the greatest influence in your child’s life.
Learn More About Test Anxiety
If you want to know more about how you as a parent can support your child’s learning journey, please contact us. We believe that every child can succeed in his or her own way!