Counseling Corner: Don’t let tests overwhelm your child

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Testing is a fact of life for students. Whether it’s a school system required standardized test, or simply an exam or quiz from the teacher to measure progress and understanding, tests can be a major source of stress and anxiety for many students.

There is no magic cure to remove all the anxiety from testing, but there are strategies to reduce stress levels and to maximize test performance.

A great starting point is being physically prepared. That can help with not only test-taking, but with all aspects of the school day. And all being physically prepared means is that your child should be well-rested and eating healthy foods.

Studies find that the average teen should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, especially on school nights. Those studies, however, find that only about 15 percent of teens actually get at least 8 hours of sleep on most school nights. That doesn’t make for a well-rested brain when that pop quiz appears in the morning.

Similarly, good nutrition plays a very important role in brain function. Skipping breakfast will always impair brain function. Junk and high-sugar foods almost always guarantee a sugar high that will be followed by a crash during the school day. Drinks high in caffeine may help a student feel alert but can also make him or her feel jittery and nervous and then concentrating is much more difficult.

While getting enough sleep and eating well are important, another key to reducing test anxiety is to be prepared. This means staying on top of the subject, keeping up with assigned readings, and being aware of when tests are coming up. By maintaining a more constant understanding of the subject matter your student can avoid having to do last-minute “cramming,” which almost always raises anxiety levels and doesn’t improve grades much.

You can also help your child by teaching them some relaxation techniques. Simply taking a few deep breaths before and even during the exam, and thinking positive thoughts about doing well, can actually make a real difference.

Doing well on tests requires planning, studying and relaxing. But if these things don’t help your child, he or she may be suffering from test anxiety. In such cases, the school counselor, or an outside professional counselor, can help in overcoming the problem.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association.

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