Tame the Butterflies

Does your child stress out before a test? Help is here.

By Sara Kendall


Does your child stress out before a big test? Worrying about doing well on a test or exam can do a number on your child’s tummy — and his academic performance.

Try these straightforward strategies to help your child face big and smaller tests, alleviate stress, and put feelings in perspective.

Stay On Top of It

Encourage good study habits. Provide a quiet, well lit area with little distractions to help your child stay on task and make sure she keeps up with daily homework. Cramming the night before a test adds more stress and usually leads to less learning. Explain to your child that it is important to keep up with the teacher’s pace for optimal learning.

If your child does not have a clear understanding of the homework before leaving class, make sure he asks the teacher. Not knowing what the homework is or how to complete it is a prescription for falling behind and low test scores.

A Good Start

Make sure your child goes to bed on time the night before the test. A good night’s sleep is important for clear thinking.

Prepare a well-balanced breakfast with protein to help him stay full and alert. Arrive at school on time; being late will only increase your child’s stress

Think Positive

Give your kid the chance to discuss her feelings with you. Explain that a certain degree of test anxiety is normal and everyone has some. Help her remember how hard she studied. Encourage her to relax by breathing deeply and staying focused.

After the Test

After the test has been graded, review it with your child. Go over any mistakes and make sure he understands why he missed what he did. Help identify areas of weakness to make improvements for a better performance next time. Praise your child for work done well.

If Problems Persist

If your kid brings home low test scores on a regular basis arrange for a conference with the teacher. A teacher can identify areas of weakness that you might miss and can suggest ways to strengthen them.

Ask about extra work, which can reinforce a concept or provide some additional help. If the teacher’s time is limited, consider a tutor to provide personalized attention to bring your child up to speed.

Test-Taking Tips

Review the following test-taking strategies with your offspring and go over them when a test is near. Keep these handy for easy reference.

  • Read directions and every possible answer before making a decision – the best answer could be the last one;
  • Focus on one question at a time rather than thinking about the whole test;
  • Reread questions and answers when there is any doubt;
  • Try to get the correct answer by reasoning and eliminating wrong answers;
  • If you don’t know an answer to a question, skip it for the time being. Come back to it later;
  • Answer every question. An unanswered question is always wrong, but even a guess may be correct;
  • Don’t worry about how fast others work. Concentrate on your own performance. You’re being graded on correct answers, not speed.

Integrating all the above strategies into your child’s weekly routine will go a long way in preparing her for success in school. If he is prepared, gets parental support, and has the opportunity to talk openly and work through concerns, he will be able to better control test-taking fears. Anxiety will subside, confidence will return, and test performance will improve.


Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters.