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Coaching Your Child        < Previous        Next >

 

Training a Good Test-Taker

 

            Q. It used to be only the goodie-goodie type kids ever got what you'd call "test anxiety." Nowadays, it seems to be widespread. How can I help my child avoid freaking out over tests, in the face of all these important tests they have to deal with these days?

 

            Most kids do feel exam stress these days, and kids who let it get to them score significantly lower on important tests. It has a lot to do with our self-absorbed culture, and the tendency of today's teens to be super-hard on themselves is a double whammy. Of course kids want to please their parents and impress their friends, so the pressure can really be "on" when it's test time.

 

            Here are the signs of test anxiety:

 

n       Physical symptoms - sweaty palms, headache, stomachache, diarrhea, cramps

 

n       Trouble falling asleep the night before

 

n       Crankiness

 

n       School avoidance - manipulating parents to be absent on test day, or skipping school

 

How can parents help kids stay competitive, and yet calm down about tests?

 

n       Communicate. Too many parents put undue pressure on kids to excel on tests, but too many haven't the faintest idea when a big test is even coming up. At the start of the school year, talk with your child and his or her teachers, too, if necessary, and record those big dates on your family calendar, especially the PSAT, SAT, ACT, NAEP, PLAN, statewide and other "big" tests that secondary students often take. Record midterms and finals, too. Then parents can get a clue when Junior's behavior goes South, and it's apparent from the calendar that the big test is coming up. From that point, you can talk things through, ask thoughtful questions about how your child is feeling, keep the household atmosphere pleasant, concentrate on good nutrition and rest, and really help.

 

n       Share your trials and triumphs. Every child needs to know that Mom and Dad have won big, and also lost big, and still survived. Don't put up a fake façade of perfection that will add to your child's stress. Make your child laugh with some ways that your own anxiety over big events - a job interview, a sales call, even asking someone for a date - has backfired. A little laughter and smiling really help!

 

n       Teach good time management. Fight the procrastination monster. All of us have put something off for too long, and then tried to cram the night before. It never works. And procrastination is a major contributor to stress. Help your child learn to do a little preparation every day for many weeks before a big test, instead of trying to cram the night before. Also, try some trial tests at home to help your child learn to use time wisely. Uncertainty about the use of time adds a great deal to pretest jitters.

 

n       Get help. Many students get a confidence boost from a study group, a mentor or tutor, or a few one-on-one study sessions with a classroom teacher before or after school. Work far in advance to help your child set that help up, and it can really pay off.

 

n       Use your knowledge of your child. If your son has always been a fidgeter, give him a ball of Pla-Dough to roll around in his hand during the test and help calm himself down. If your daughter has an oral fixation, provide gum or hard candy on the morning of the test. Teach deep-breathing, positive thinking . . . and coach your child to take a warm bath or shower and drink a nice glass of milk and eat a banana the night before. Comfort goes a long, long way toward calming!

 

Homework: Here are some good tips from West Virginia University at Parkersburg:

 

www.wvup.edu/Academics/more_test_anxiety_tips.htm

 

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Coaching Your Child 16 © 2008

 

 

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