These tips for parents were developed by NYSUT member Peter Faustino, a school psychologist and member of the Bedford Teachers Association; and NYSUT member Tom Kulaga, a school psychologist and member of the Marlboro Faculty Association; and distributed by NYSUT online.
Test anxiety is common among students. It can be worsened by an over-emphasis on test stakes, consequences or grades. It’s important for you to reassure your children that no single test or grade defines who they are. Keep the focus on learning, not testing. Typically, when a child is anxious, telling him/ her to “just relax” isn’t enough. Here are some mental and physical techniques you can practice with your child to combat test anxiety:
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO: SELF TALK IN A CONSTRUCTIVE WAY
Attitudes and beliefs help determine how we react. One way to combat anxiety is through what is called “self-talk.”
It is essential to avoid use of negative cue words or negative self-talk and to concentrate on more positive phrases.
Irrational beliefs (beliefs not based on the facts or reality) contribute to strong emotional reactions and negative behaviors.
Negative self-talk before and during tests can cause students to lose confidence and give up on tests.
Silently shouting “Stop!” or “Stop thinking about that,” interrupts negative self-talk and the worry response before it can cause high anxiety.
After eliminating the negative thoughts, immediately replace them with positive self-talk or relaxation.
Positive self-talk can build confidence and decrease test anxiety.
Negative: “No matter what I do, I will not pass this test,” becomes:
Positive: “I studied all of the material, I will do fine on this test.”
Negative: “I am no good at math, so why should I try?” becomes:
Positive: “I’ve worked hard and I will try my best on this test.”
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO: RELEASE MUSCLE TENSION
1. Put your feet flat on the floor.
2. With your hands, grab underneath the chair.
3. Push down with your feet and pull up on your chair at the same time for about five seconds.
4. Relax for five to 10 seconds.
5. Repeat the procedure two or three times.
6. Relax all your muscles except for the ones that are actually used to take the test.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO: VISUALIZE A CALMING SCENE
1. Close and cover your eyes using the center of the palms of your hands.
2. Prevent your hands from touching your eyes by resting the lower parts of your palms on your cheekbones and placing your fingers on your forehead. Your eyeballs must not be touched, rubbed or handled.
3. Think of some real or imaginary relaxing scene. Mentally visualize this scene. Picture it as if you were actually there.
4. Visualize this scene for one to two minutes.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO: RELAX THROUGH DEEP BREATHING
1. Sit straight up in a chair in a good posture position.
2. Slowly inhale through the nose.
3. First fill the lower section of the lungs and work up to the upper part of your lungs.
4. Breathe out through your mouth.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO: PRACTICE LONG TERM RELAXATION
An effective long-term relaxation technique is cue-controlled relaxation response. This involves the repetition of cue words, such as: “I am relaxed,” “I can get through this,” or “Tests don’t scare me.”
About the Authors
This online brochure excerpts the materials of NYSUT members Peter Fastino and Tom Kulaga.
NYSUT member Peter Faustino, a school psychologist, member of the Bedford Teachers Association and president of the New York Association of School Psychologists. He is a graduate of Fordham University where he earned his Ph.D. in psychology.
NYSUT member Tom Kulaga, a school psychologist at Marlboro Middle School and a member of the Marlboro FA. He holds a M.S. degree in education from Brooklyn College, national certification as a school psychologist, and diplomate status in school-neuropsychology. He is past-president of the New York Association of School Psychologists and webmaster of www.nyasp.org, and serves as adjunct instructor for the School Psychology Program at Marist College.