Test-Day Jitters Be Gone! 9 Tips to Calm Your Kid

May 12,2014
Erin Dower( )

April, May, and June are big testing months in school. And now that most schools have adopted the new Common Core Standards, test-day anxiety is striking earlier than ever -- as early as kindergarten or first grade in a few states. 

So what's a mom to do when her child suffers from tummy aches or resorts to calling himself "stupid" in the weeks leading up to a big, scary test? Try some of these test-taking anxiety busters:

  • Use positive reinforcement -- e.g.: "You've been working hard all year and are well prepared for this test." But not excessive/empty reinforcement: "You're going to do AWESOME!!! You have NOTHING to worry about!" A little bit of encouragement (combined with some other relaxation techniques) goes a long way.
  • Teach positive self-talk. Help your child practice taking deep breaths and saying kind/affirmative things to herself, such as: "I am calm and focused. I have studied and am doing my best." It may sound hoaky, but it builds self-confidence, which is an important skill in test-taking.
  • Practice meditation every day. Meditation doesn't have to mean sitting cross-legged and chanting "Ommmmmm" (although traditional meditation and yoga are great activities for kids!). Meditation can be a quick, everyday practice that helps your child (and you) "step out of" a stressful/emotional moment and turn inward to find some balance. Sprinkle in some meditative moments throughout your family's day -- such as during sibling fights or moments of road rage when you're driving -- to encourage everyone to take some deep breaths, hit the "pause" button on getting angry with oneself or others, and move forward. It's a skill that requires practice but will truly help your child during tests and other challenges in life.
  • Listen to relaxing music and sounds. Break out the headphones and find some soothing instrumental music or nature sounds for your child to listen to during anxious moments leading up to the big test.
  • Pack a "lovey" or lucky charm. Young test takers might take comfort in hugging their favorite stuffed animal or squeezing a lucky stone just before entering the test room, so remember to pack it on test day.

See our full list of 9 Test-Day Anxiety Busters for Kids to learn even more relaxation techniques and test preparation tips to help your child do his or her best. Deep breaths, Mom. Deep breaths!