4 Tips to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Exams

Do tests make your kid break out in a cold sweat? As parents, you might want to keep your little one calm and confident by helping him deal with this regular yet manageable exam fear. This is how it’s done:

1. Focus on the positive.

Start noticing the many things your child is already doing well — and tell them. Constant reminders about the consequences of a poor test score on their grades or success aren’t useful. Children must be reminded that exam results do not define their worth. They need to know that they are valued for who they are, not what they are able to achieve. When we treat our children better or bring them out for a nice meal because of an excellent exam result, they will discover the correlation between their worth and their academic performances.

2. Reinforce healthy habits.

Encourage good nutrition and sleep habits on a daily basis. Don’t reserve them for the day before a test. Rest and relaxation are critical for test day success. Making them both a priority especially on the nights leading up to test day. Relaxation practices can help kids focus. Meditation, guided imagery and relaxing each part of the body (starting at the feet and ending at the top of the head) can improve performance and bring a sense of calm. Schools are even teaching kids to meditate, with positive results!

3. Say “no” to multi-tasking.

Help your child focus by minimizing distractions. Turn off music, TV and other devices during study sessions. The distractions that come with multitasking make it hard for students to refocus. Interruptions are especially tough for students who have a hard time paying attention in the first place (like those who struggle with ADD or ADHD).

Just like any other muscle, the brain gets tired. Quickly switching from one thing to another can easily tire it out. When the brain is tired, learning becomes more difficult and mistakes become more common. Over time, this can cause school performance to drop.

4. Help kids envision success.

Like pro athletes prep for a game, kids can mentally rehearse taking a test with confidence and calm, answering questions well. Our children should be encouraged to focus on the process and not give up in the face of difficulty — persevering to get a math problem correct, meticulously sieving out contextual clues in a written passage, being humble and asking for help. These are examples of qualities we must validate when we see them in our children.

If you and your child are going through their very first exam or major exam, consider making a pact — no matter what results are achieved. You can say something like “You did your best with the resources available”.

It will help to shift the focus away from all the “what-ifs”. It is pointless to worry about the unknown future but more constructive when we focus on making the best of the situation in the present.

Keep these strategies in mind, and you can help your child ace their next big test.