More Tests = More Anxiety
Q: If the test is only a week or two away, what then?
You can review the right way to take standardized tests. For example:
- Look over the whole test before beginning. That way, your child can manage
her time efficiently. If there's an essay at the end, she'll know that she
can't spend too long on the multiple-choice questions.
- Skip tough questions and go back to them. But remind your child not to
panic if the first several questions are stumpers. When that happens, it's easy
to think the whole test is impossible. But these tests don't progress from
easiest to hardest.
- Eliminate wrong answers. If your child is at a loss, she can increase her
odds by ruling out answers that she knows are incorrect. Some kids have heard
that if they're guessing, they should always pick a certain letter because most
of the answers correspond to that letter. Don't let them fall for that old
trick. These new tests aren't set up that way.
And here's a great tip I heard from a seventh grader. She told me, "I
used to get nervous during multiple-choice exams because often the choices were
so similar, I'd get mixed up. Now I cover up the answers while I read the
question, figure out what it should be, then choose the answer that comes
closest to mine."
Q: Some moms go so far as to give their kids prescription drugs. Does that make sense?
I want to be clear. There's a big difference between anxiety and real
phobia. If a child is exhibiting true test-phobic behavior-avoiding the test at
all costs, even making himself sick-it's probably only one manifestation of
more severe problems. With professional help, there may be times when
short-term medication is appropriate. But these situations are the extreme. To
my mind, there is absolutely no need for medication for routine cases of test
Q: What about meditation or deep relaxation?
These techniques are perfect for treating routine test anxiety. As testing
increases, many schools have even added these activities to the standard
One of the most effective relaxation techniques kids can use during the test
is visualization. Ask your child to imagine herself in one of her favorite
places. How does it look, feel, smell, and sound? A fourth grader in one of my
schools said he used to imagine soup. "Soup?" I asked. "Yes, I
close my eyes and imagine I'm in my grandmother's house and I can smell the
soup cooking in her kitchen. That's when I relax." I've had kids end up in
Disney World, Africa, the beach-anywhere they feel happy and calm. In fact,
visualization is what helped my daughter after that fitful night. She still
gets butterflies, but now she knows how to soothe herself. Have your child
practice visualization at home when he gets frustrated during a homework
assignment. He'll see that it works, and he'll be comfortable trying it during
I'm also a big fan of meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and
regular exercise. All these activities can help kids stay calm during the time
leading up to the test and also will come in handy in other stressful periods
throughout their lives. Ask your child's guidance counselor for more info and
check out the Web sites studygs.net (search for test anxiety) and school
familyeducation.com (search for relaxation techniques).