Your teen or tween has developed test anxiety. Your heart breaks when they tell you that they can’t do it, even though they studied hard. You know they can succeed, if they could just relax. But you don’t know how to help them overcome test anxiety.

This time of year brings many important tests: SATs, PSSAs, Keystones and final exams. Your child may express high levels of anxiety in response to testing, but not know how to cope.

What Does Test Anxiety Look Like?

It’s normal to feel nervous before taking an exam. But for teens and tweens with test anxiety, it can feel unbearable. While symptoms may look different from one person to the next, often students will complain of physical symptoms such as stomach aches, increasing heart rates, nausea and headaches, to name a few. Your child may report racing thoughts, inability to think about things other than the upcoming test, difficulty concentrating, or even panic attacks.

How Can You Help Your Teen or Tween Calm Test Anxiety?

You worry and feel helpless when your child experiences test anxiety. Here are some suggestions as to how you can help your child manage their anxiety:

1. Preparation

Help your child prepare for the upcoming test. This can involve helping them study, but also can  include familiarizing them for when & where the test will take place. Having concrete information about what they can expect on the day of the test may alleviate some anxiety.

If the test location is unfamiliar, find out whether you can take them to see the layout of the room. If this is impossible, enlist a student who has taken the test at this location to describe the venue.

2. Physical Health

Your teen or tween probably scoffs at the importance of getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising under normal circumstances. When students begin to feel anxious, good self-care can help reduce anxiety. You can help support your student by enforcing rules around bedtime and encouraging healthier eating and exercise habits in the days leading up to a big test.

3. Be Positive!

If your teen or tween experiences test anxiety means, they are experiencing negative thoughts about themselves and their performance. Offering positive statements and affirmations to your child can help to change their negative thought patterns.

Here are a few examples of positive self-talk and affirmations:

  • I can remain calm and focused
  • I am well-prepared for this exam
  • I have done well before, and can succeed now

4. A Calm Body = A Calm Mind

As mentioned above, symptoms of anxiety can include racing thoughts or heart rate. You can help your student learn to calm their autonomic nervous system. Slowing things down physically promotes calmer and clearer thinking.

Try these two exercises with your child:

  • Notice where you feel the tension in your body. Breathing normally, inhale slowly while counting to five. Exhale slowly while counting to five. Repeat at least six times, or until you feel the tension relax.
  • Once again, notice the tension in your body. Close your eyes and picture a pinwheel. Notice its color. Notice the direction in which it’s spinning. Change the color. Now change the direction of the spin.

5. Seek Support

If your child’s test anxiety continues to concern you, the counselors at the Couples and Family Wellness Center can help! Our counselors are at the head of the class with use of proven techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, mind-body connection tools, and EMDR . Contact us today if you’re ready to set your teen or tween on the road to success.