It’s normal for both adults and children to feel nervous once in a while. A little anxiety prior to an event like a presentation or test is common — and normal.
“For some, a little nervousness can actually be helpful,” said Dr. Tina Ardon, a Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist. “But, for others, they struggle a bit more with what we call ‘test anxiety.’”
Test anxiety can affect students of any age, from primary to college.
While symptoms are varied, and can include trouble concentrating and sleeping the night before a test, Ardon says some individuals struggle significantly. Some even experience physical symptoms.
“There are people who have trouble focusing during a test but others who experience trouble breathing, stomachache, headache, elevated heart rate,” she said.
The challenge for many parents, especially of younger children, is confirming whether a complaint of headache, stomachache and other ailment is related to an actual illness or anxiety.
Ardon offers these tips for helping to prepare children for tests and alleviate mild test anxiety:
>> Be prepared. “Having ample time to prepare and study is important to reduce stress,” she said.
>> Create a consistent routine before a test.
>> Before the big day, try relaxation techniques.
>> Be familiar with the test format. “Is it multiple choice, short answer, an essay? Knowing that can help alleviate some of that anxiety, as well, and help students prepare.”
>> Get plenty of rest and eat well. “It’s really important to get a good night’s sleep every day, but especially the night before a test. And make sure you have really good breakfast the day of, as well,” she said, adding to avoid sugary foods and drinks, and caffeine.
>> Seek professional guidance. If your child’s anxiety is not improving or your child seems to be struggling with learning overall, Ardon recommends talking to your health care provider.