Helping Your Daughter Overcome Test Anxiety

Apr 8, 2022

One of the undeniable realities of schooling is tests. Unless your child is untraditionally homeschooled or in an alternative educational program, they will experience tests and assessments at some point during their education.

These tests are designed to evaluate what the student has learned, so the teacher can determine whether further study or additional support is required.

While tests serve a valuable purpose within our educational system, their function and benefit are little consolation to students who find taking them highly anxiety-inducing. Many students experience test anxiety, a type of performance anxiety that develops in response to an impending academic assessment or exam.

What is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is typically defined as a heightened anxious state brought on by fear of an upcoming test. Symptoms vary depending on the age and temperament of the child in question, but common signs include:

• Crying
• Clinging to a parent or comfort figure
• Refusing to act
• Restlessness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Irritability
• Nightmares and sleep terrors
• Meltdowns
• Stomach aches
• Headaches
• Excessive sweating
• Memory impairment

While most kids harbour a healthy dislike of tests and exams, test anxiety is a unique subset of performance anxiety that can affect our children cognitively, behaviourally, and psychologically.

If left untreated, test anxiety can make our children preoccupied, withdrawn, and cause them to underperform even when they’re familiar with the material. In some cases, children even experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, and nausea, impacting their long-term health.

How Can Parents Help with Test Anxiety?

As parents, it hurts to see our children suffer from a stressor like test anxiety. One of the best ways to help is to talk about it. If we don’t talk about it with them, it sends a signal that their feelings are something to be ashamed of and could cause them to withdraw.

However, starting the conversation can be difficult. Here are some tips for getting the discussion started and some strategies that you can use to help your daughter develop a healthier approach to testing.

Ask questions to understand her perspective

One of the best things you can do for your daughter in almost any situation is approach it with an open and curious mind. Start by asking questions to determine her thought process and her specific concerns around test-taking. Some prompts you can use include:

  • How do you feel when you think about taking a test?
  • What thoughts go through your mind?
  • What’s your biggest worry?
  • Is there anything that makes you feel better?

During this discussion, ask questions but don’t take over the conversation. Just let her talk and listen with an open mind. Ideally, you’ll learn about what specific aspects of test-taking make her nervous, and how she feels both physically and mentally in these situations.

Talk through the basics of test-taking

If your daughter is experiencing test anxiety at a young age, it could be because she simply doesn’t understand how it works and is nervous about doing the wrong thing. You can help by talking her through the basics of test taking.

Remind her that she can always ask questions if she’s confused about the format or structure, and reassure her that it’s hard to feel confident until she’s more familiar with the habit.

Reinforce positive self-talk

Sometimes our discouragement can translate into negative self-talk, which only exacerbates the problem. Encouraging your daughter to be patient with herself and engage in positive self-talk is a great way to help her replace those negative thoughts in her head that will only feed her anxiety.

Show her some easy relaxation and stress-relieving techniques

It’s never too early to start developing positive stress relief and relaxation habits. Meditation, deep breathing, journaling, and going for walks are all great habits that can relieve stress.

Want to learn more about how parents and carers can encourage their girls? Listen to our podcast or explore more articles on our website.