By Lexi Walters Wright
Many students experience test anxiety. But kids with learning and attention issues may need an extra confidence boost to keep stress and self-doubt at bay on test day. These surprising tips might do the trick.
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 songs that make her feel strong and energized. She can listen on the way to school or between periods before a test.
Of course, hearing “We Will Rock You” won’t guarantee an A. But it might give your child the confidence surge she needs to do her best.
Liking a celebrity is one thing. Feeling that you know him or have something in common is even better. Research shows identifying with a star may actually help boost confidence and self-esteem. Tell your child about famous people with learning and attention issues, and read about them together.
Then, help her practice positive self-talk: “Justin Timberlake has ADHD and it didn’t stop him from becoming a famous musician and actor. If I focus on studying, I can do well on this test.”
Researchers have found that when people make themselves “small” by slouching or crossing their arms, they actually feel less confident about the task ahead of them. Early studies show that the opposite may be true when they stretch out and make themselves “large.”
Show your child two “power poses” that she can do before school or at recess on test day. Have her hold her arms wide and high above her head for two minutes. Or sit back in a chair with her hands behind her head and feet up on a desk.
It’s not just superstition. Research suggests that carrying some kind of lucky token can actually build confidence and relieve anxiety. People who had their lucky charms with them performed better and set higher goals for themselves than people who didn’t. If your child doesn’t already have a lucky charm, you can give her one to take with her on test day.
Also, make sure to wish her good luck. Research also shows that even something that simple can make a difference in how confident she feels.
It may sound too easy. But research shows that when we see cute images, we concentrate better. Studies show that looking at pictures of baby animals during a task can actually make people more productive. Have your child print a color photo of a puppy, kitten or other adorable baby animal. She can pop it in her backpack or save it to her phone. Then right before the test, she can sneak a peek.
Research backs it up: Success really does breed success. So remembering past achievements may boost your child’s confidence before she tackles a new challenge. Brainstorm together a list of her big and small triumphs. These might include scoring a goal, getting a good grade on a paper or making a new friend. Write them down, and encourage her to review them at bedtime the week before the test.
Even if the test doesn’t go well, recalling those successes can help her realize she has lots of other strengths.
Your grandmother may have told you that sitting up straight improves posture. But research suggests 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 when she’s doing homework or quizzing herself. And on test day, remind her that sitting taller can help her believe in herself.
Smiling is a sign of happiness. But researchers have found that smiling can also be an instant stress-reducer by slowing people’s heart rates during anxiety-producing situations.
Help your child practice fake-smiling while she’s doing something stressful. It could be competing in a talent show, trying out for a sport or simply being quizzed at home before a test. Then, remind her on test day to give herself and her teacher a big grin!
Some children with learning and attention issues have trouble seeing other viewpoints and alternative ways of doing things. Use these tips to help your child practice flexible thinking, which is essential for learning and everyday life.
Once your child reaches middle school, she’ll take more tests in more subjects than ever before. Kids with learning and attention issues who’ve done poorly on tests in the past may have difficulty quieting the voice that says, “I’m going to fail again!” Use these tips to help your child reduce test anxiety.
Lexi Walters Wright is veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.
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