Stressful situations are widely considered to be a contributing factor for many health problems for adults, and something to be avoided. Yet when a child faces a stressful situation, it is largely dismissed as being part of the learning experience. Children can and do experience stressors and stress can cause problems for children.

One area where many children suffer stress is academic performance concerns, or test anxiety. While the reality of tests and testing is not going away, there are techniques to help your child develop strategies to manage the stress of test taking.

These strategies can be learned through active teaching.

  • Give examples. Explain and practice different strategies together.

  • Allow your children to see that others experience stress. If you have a stressful event coming up, like a job interview, express your feelings to your child and let them see that you also experience stressful situations.

  • Model coping strategies for your child. This allows your child to see your words in action.

Be Prepared. Have you ever wondered why so many people have the dream about being unprepared for a test?Feeling unprepared is a large contributor to test anxiety.

The first step in helping your child cope with test anxiety is to make sure that they are prepared for the test. Find out when the test will be. Encourage your child to study the material well in advance to avoid last minute cramming. When your child has mastered the material, they will feel more confident when they receive the test.

Pay attention to physical needs

The second step in assisting your child with test anxiety is to take care of their physical needs.

Make sure that they:

  • get enough sleep

  • exercise

  • have enough to eat

It is important that they are not hungry or tired at the time of the test. While you can't do anything about a class that takes place right before lunch, you can make sure that they have an adequate and sustaining breakfast. Adjust family schedules the night before a test to allow your child to go to bed on time.

Remember to Breathe

Teach your child a few deep breathing techniques as a way to calm their nerves. If they are able to take a few good and solid diaphragmatic breaths, the result is relaxation and more oxygen for the brain. If they make it a practice to take several deep breaths when beginning a test, they will be more relaxed and confident. There are several mobile apps available that teach deep breathing techniques.

Keep a healthy perspective

Express to your child that tests are not a measure of their cumulative knowledge or intelligence. Tests are simply one snapshot of what they know on a particular day. And, of course, express your love and support for your child, no matter the outcome of a test.

The stress associated with test taking is part of your child's learning experience. By following these simple steps, you can help make the experience a positive one.

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