The winter months bring us new weather patterns, new daylight schedules and new challenges for children. Exams, projects and papers are back in full swing. Some children may experience some level of anxiety in preparation for an exam or during an exam. Test anxiety is a form of anxiety that is both anticipatory and performance related. In anticipatory test anxiety, a child may be anxious about the preparation necessary for an exam. When performance related, a child may experience anxiety during the exam itself.
Research shows that test anxiety is related strongly to time management and preparation. A child who prepares, plans ahead and studies for the exam will be more capable of handling any stressors that may arise on the day of the exam. A child who attempts to cram the night before may feel inadequately prepared for the exam and these feelings and doubts may linger during the exam itself. However, even the most prepared/organized child may have some normal “jitters” on the day of a big exam.
As parents, we need to pay careful attention to the behaviors of our children, as there may be clues that they are experiencing some level of test anxiety. Let’s look at the following three examples:
Your child tells you that before her math exam, her body became “frozen” and it felt like she was confused and disoriented.
Your child tells you that he reviewed the material for his history test an extra five times because he felt nervous that he really didn’t know the material well.
Your child tells you that before her most recent science exam, she had difficulty falling asleep. In the morning, she felt very tired and had difficulty concentrating during the exam.
In all three cases, parents can assist their children to navigate through these discomforts. In example #1, the child can use breathing, relaxation and light muscle exercises to relax the body directly prior to the exam. In example #2, parents can offer to be their child’s study partner and offer to give them a brief test at the end of the studying. Parents can assist their child to clarify their thoughts and to help them with strategies to remember specific information. In example #3, the child can be assisted to reinforce a healthy bedtime routine and breathing/relaxing strategies should the child have some difficulty falling asleep.
In all of these cases, feelings of anxiety can be worked through to build resilience and growth in your child.
Wishing you a successful and warm winter full of collaboration and teamwork.
By Mark Staum
Mark Staum, LCSW is a clinician at The Center For Anxiety in Monsey, NY. In his private practice, Mark provides counseling services to children, adolescents and parents. Mark specializes in working with children dealing with anxiety, mood difficulties, life transitions and social skill difficulties. Utilizing CBT, DBT and ERP allows Mark to blend behavioral techniques with interpersonal connection to build skills and resilience in children. If you wish to contact Mark, he can be reached at [email protected] or at 201-952-4436.