How to help your child overcome school test anxiety? This is a common question, as anxiety levels rise sometimes to the point where children feel physically sick. The headache, cold, or stomach flu that seem to conveniently happen on the day of the test? They are frequently a response to stress. According to some studies, Latino students may face some additional stress related issues, such as not feeling like they belong to the school community and, if they are more recent immigrants, culture and language.
Unfortunately, stress can affect your kid’s ability to do well in school so it’s important for you to help your children keep it in check. There are many things you can do to help your child avoid stress before tests and exams:
• Help your child stay organized. Create a large calendar and encourage your child to write down tests, project due dates, and exams. Then plan backwards when he/she needs to begin studying or preparing for the test or the project. Avoiding the last-minute rush to meet a deadline removes a quite a bit of pressure.
• Ensure your child is getting healthy food, exercise, and rest. Being in good physical condition allows your child to focus on his/her work. By preparing for that test well in advance, kids avoid missing valuable sleep time right before the big day.
Encourage your child with words and actions. If you have agreed to a certain study time, make sure you don’t ask your kid to help you with house chores or to babysit younger siblings.
• Create a good study space for your child. A good study space does not have to be expensive. The kitchen table will do, as long as you are not using it to prepare dinner or you are nearby talking on the phone.
• Get additional tutoring or help for your child if your child is struggling with specific subjects. Many schools and communities have free tutoring help, so call your child’s school and local library to learn about options in your area. You can always contact the United Federation of Teacher’s Dial-a-Teacher program to get any help your child may need for free. A few hours of tutoring can make a dramatic difference in your child’s grades and can boost your child’s confidence at test time.
It’s also important for you to consider additional stressors. Sometimes, a child may seem to be fretting about school or tests when in fact larger problems are at play. Is there something going on at home? A sick relative? Fights between you and your spouse? Someone lost their job recently? Or is there something else happening at school: Are they being bullied Is the teacher picking on them? Talk to your child and find out as much as possible. If needed, approach the teacher. Find out if she’s noticed a behavioural change or if she knows of any particular situation that may be stressing out your child.
Stress is a serious problem for students today and tests can add an extra dose of it. Make sure you identify it early, so you can help your children prepare for those exams rather than be terrified by them. You can check my guide for parents to help their kids succeed in school and some great online resources that can help.