Posted on March 1, 2017 by Enrique Mata
March is a time in the school year when kids see increased benchmark tests, tutoring and other activity in preparation for state tests. This can be a stressful time for children, youth, teachers and parents. Any child can suffer from text anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), test anxiety can lead to symptoms such as: headache, nausea, diarrhea, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts, and feelings of anger, helplessness and disappointment. The causes of test anxiety include:
- Fear of failure - Pressure to perform can act as a motivator, but it can also be devastating to individuals who tie their self-worth to the outcome of a test.
- Lack of preparation - Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can lead to feeling overwhelmed or anxious when test time arrives.
- Poor test history – Past negative experiences with test-taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests.
The good news is test anxiety can be managed. It can take extra time, patience and caring from parents but the reassurance and support can make a huge difference when kids feel fearful or anxious about upcoming exams. If the anxiety is too overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek professional help from your pediatrician or from counselors who specialize in anxiety management. Seeking timely assistance can ease the strain and help kids cope before state test time. To manage most cases of test anxiety, the ADAA and others recommend:
- Being prepared – Help kids develop good study habits. Teach them to study at least a week or two before the exam, in smaller increments of time and over a few days (instead of pulling an “all-nighter”). Talk with teachers about links to online practice tests or learning games.
- Developing good test-taking skills – Remind kids to read test directions carefully. For some, answering questions they know first, then returning to the more difficult ones helps. For essay questions, have them practice outlining their thoughts before they write.
- Maintaining a positive attitude - Remind kids that their self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by one test grade. Creating a system of rewards and reasonable expectations for studying can help to produce effective studying habits. There is no benefit to negative thinking.
- list text herePracticing relaxation techniques - If kids say they feel stressed during an exam, have them practice taking deep, slow breaths and consciously relaxing their muscles, one at a time. This activity helps to invigorate the body and maintain a better focus on the exam.
- Staying healthy – Kids need to get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise and have some personal time. Physical or emotional exhaustion makes it more difficult to handle stress and anxiety.
- Staying focused – Remind kids to concentrate on the test, not other students.
The pressure of exams can take a toll on students. Talk with your kids and stay in touch with their teachers. Seek professional help if needed. With family support and some timely healthful preparation, kids will be better able to weather test time and succeed.
To learn more about local emotional health support for families:
- Emergence Health Network: (915) 779-1800 or www.emergencehealthnetwork.org
- El Paso Child Guidance Center (915) 562-1999 or www.epcgc.org/What-We-Do
- NAMI El Paso at: 915-534-5476 or www.namiep.org/
- Paso del Norte Children’s Development Center (915) 915-544-8484 or visit pdnchildrens.org
Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website, Test Anxiety, Accessed February 24, 2017 at www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety
Nemours Foundation Website, Test Anxiety, What you can do accessed February 24, 2017 at: www.kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/school/test_anxiety.html#a_What_Can_You_Do_
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