At a glance
Lots of kids feel anxious about taking tests.
There are simple things you can do to help your child feel better on test day.
Music, doing a power pose, and even smiling can help improve confidence.
Lots of kids feel anxious about taking tests. But some kids need to build extra confidence to avoid stress and self-doubt on test day. These tips might do the trick.
1. Turn up the power tunes.
We all know that music can be relaxing. But research suggests it can also be empowering. Listening to high-volume, bass-heavy songs tends to put people in a more powerful frame of mind. Have your child create a playlist of empowering songs that can be played on the way to school or between periods before a test.
2. Reach for a star.
Liking a celebrity is one thing. Feeling that you know a celebrity or have something in common is even better. Identifying with a star may actually help boost confidence and self-esteem.
Tell your child about musicians, STEM stars, authors, and other famous people who struggled in school, and read about them together.
3. Strike a power pose.
When people make themselves “small” by slouching or crossing their arms, they actually feel less confident about the task ahead of them. Studies show that the opposite may be true when they stretch out and make themselves “large.”
Show your child “power poses” that can be done before school or at recess on test day. For example, hold your arms wide and high above your head for two minutes. Or sit back in a chair with your hands behind your head and your feet up on a desk.
4. Grab a lucky charm.
For some people, carrying a lucky token can actually build confidence and relieve anxiety. If your child doesn’t already have a lucky charm, choose one to bring to school on test day.
Also, make sure to wish your child good luck. It sounds simple, but it can make a difference in how confident kids feel.
5. Make an “I did it” list.
Remembering past achievements can boost your child’s confidence before tackling a new challenge. Brainstorm together a list of both big and small triumphs. These might include trying out for a team, sounding out a tough word, or making a new friend. Write them down, and encourage your child to go over them at bedtime the week before the test.
Even if the test doesn’t go well, recalling those successes can help your child remember other strengths.
6. Sit up straight.
Your grandparents may have told you that sitting up straight improves posture. But it may have another benefit. A study of college students showed that the ones who sat up straight in a job interview were more likely to believe in positive statements about themselves.
Have your child test this theory in advance during homework or quiz prep. And on test day, remind your child that sitting taller can help increase confidence.
Smiling is a sign of happiness. But researchers have found that smiling can also be an instant stress-reducer, slowing people’s heart rates during anxiety-producing situations.
Help your child practice fake-smiling during stressful activities. It could be competing in a talent show, trying out for a sport, or simply being quizzed at home before a test. Then, on test day, remind your child to give a big grin. Did you know that how you praise your child can have a big impact on self-esteem? Get tips on how to give praise that builds confidence.
Stretching and sitting up straight can improve confidence.
Surrounding your child with positive music and uplifting photos can also help.
No matter what the test result, praise your child’s effort.
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.