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Children taking a test in a classroom

5 Strategies to Reduce Your Child’s Test Anxiety

Author: CHKD Medical Group, Dr. Melissa Horton
Published Date: Monday, March 4, 2019

By Dr. Melissa Horton, Town Center Pediatrics

School exams have always been a source of anxiety for students. And, with today’s educational standards, the stakes – and often the stress levels – are much higher. Public school students in Virginia begin taking Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in the third grade. By the time they reach high school, they’re expected to pass several exams in order to graduate.

Whether your student struggles or soars academically, test anxiety is a common problem for children of all ages. Fortunately, parents can help their children alleviate some of the stress. If you have serious concerns about your child’s anxiety over taking school exams, make sure to talk to your pediatrician.

Here are five strategies parents can use to help kids cope with test anxiety:

Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

When children don’t get enough sleep, it can affect their entire day. Not only could they doze off in the classroom, they can experience more anxiety than usual. Getting enough sleep is especially important the night before exams. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 6 to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep every night, and teens need eight to 10 hours.

Limiting screen time is important for good sleep. The AAP recommends keeping all screens – TVs, tablets, computers, and cellphones – out of your child’s bedroom, especially at night. Make sure your child turns off all screens at least an hour before bedtime.

Serve your student a healthy breakfast with protein.

Food is fuel for your child’s body. Sugary cereals are popular choices among kids, but they won’t keep hunger at bay for long when blood sugar levels drop. Scrambled eggs or turkey bacon with multi-grain toast is an excellent choice for sustained levels of energy.

Help your child prepare themselves for their exams.

A child is less likely to feel anxious about a test if they have a good understanding of the material. Talk to your child about their studies. Ask them if they need help, and make sure they set aside an adequate amount of time to study. If your child needs extensive help, ask the teacher for suggestions on study materials or online practice tests.

Go over test-taking strategies with your child.

Everyone benefits from test-taking strategies. Something as simple as practicing slow breaths before an exam can help a child calm down on their own. Many teachers recommend students complete the easiest questions first and go back to the harder ones later. Reading all instructions carefully and double-checking answers can also help students feel more confident during their exams.

Talk to your child’s teacher if they need special accommodations.

If your child receives special education services, find out if they qualify for extra time to finish an exam, taking a test in a small group, or having it read out loud to them. These small accommodations can alleviate anxiety and improve test scores.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.