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Coping with the Big Bad Wolf: Test Anxiety

Test AnxietySpring break is quickly approaching. While that brings shouts of joy for most children, it is also a reminder that the Georgia Milestone is right around the corner. Since the beginning of March, I have been bombarded with more and more children sharing their fears about the test that is coming up. They are worrying about how hard it will be, whether they will do a good job or not, and some are scared that they won’t pass. Reassurance from parents and teachers can go a very long way but there are some additional steps that parents can take at home to instill confidence and peace of mind.

  • Encourage their efforts. Rather than just saying “good job” or “well done” when your child comes home with a good grade, focus on the process instead. Notice the effort they make when doing their homework or studying for a test. Try saying “You’re working really hard right now” when they are doing their homework or “you know a lot about this topic” when you are helping them study. Focusing on the process and the details of the work they are doing will really boost their confidence.
  • Make time for play breaks. Play is such a natural state for kids to be in. It’s engaging, rejuvenating, and comforting for them. Children need this time worked into their day so that they have the energy and fortitude to handle the stress that inevitably comes from school (especially around times of testing). We need to nurture this play time as well as intelligence. Play gives children the chance to practice what they are learning.
  • Rest and a good diet are paramount for a child’s success. In the weeks leading up to the Georgia Milestone tests, make sure your children are routinely getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthy. Make it a habit now so that it’s effective later.
  • Be patient and mindful of what stress looks like in children. Increased moodiness, defiance, and difficulty sleeping can all be signs of heightened stress in children. Children are often unable to tell us what’s bothering them but they can always show us. Behaviors are the symptom not the problem. Therefore, when your child is acting up more than usual, ask yourself “what is my child trying to tell me?” before jumping to discipline.
  • Remind your child that a little anxiety is normal. Everybody worries sometimes. Worry can even be beneficial in the right amounts. A healthy amount of worry motivates us to prepare, helps us focus on doing our best, and even makes us more alert during stressful situations.

In the end, all kids survive the testing process. However, while we as adults know this, a child often sees testing as a big bad wolf out to get them. Validate their fears and encourage the efforts they’ve been making all year long. Hear them, validate them, love them, and just be there for them. Each time your child conquers the stress they are under, they set themselves up to conquer the next one. Good luck to all!!! Below are a few more resources to help you and your child conquer the big bad wolf.

Resources:
“Sitting Still Like a Frog” by Eline Snel
“What to do when you Worry too much” by Dawn Huebner
“Freeing your child from Anxiety” by Tamar Chansky

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