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Dear EACS Families,

Testing.  Just that word can induce anxiety for many students.  With spring testing season upon us, I connected with our Social Emotional Learning Coaches for some tips on how to help our students (and us) manage our anxiety. 

To know how to help, it is important to understand anxiety.  Anxiety is a physiological response to something your brain perceives as a threat.  Did you know the brain perceives uncertainty as a threat?  We can all agree that throughout this pandemic, there has been a great deal of uncertainty.  This added layer of uncertainty can lower our threshold for managing stress well.

Test Anxiety can be triggered when facing an exam. This is common and most people experience some level of anxiety or nervousness when faced with taking an exam - a small amount can even be helpful. However, when it starts to interfere with the ability to perform, it becomes Test Anxiety.  Test Anxiety is characterized by fear, worry, tension and even physically feeling ill. Your child may appear noticeably more irritable, angry, or forgetful. You may see your child fidgeting more than normal, sweating for no apparent reason, avoiding anything to do with studying for the exam or obsessing over studying. You may hear your child using negative self-talk or complaining of not feeling well.

Fortunately, there are ways we can help our children to overcome test anxiety and manage stress!

1.            Get active: Remember that anxiety is PHYSIOLOGICAL and requires a PHYSIOLOGICAL response. Encourage your child to exercise, take a walk, mediate, practice breathing exercises, etc. You can even do them together. (Click on this link to see how!)

2.            Communicate: It is important to talk about anxiety and what your child is experiencing in a straightforward and compassionate manner. Not sure what to say? Watch the following videos with your child:

a.            Elementary https://youtu.be/sDYx9qM_ygg

b.            Secondary https://youtu.be/sTh596WfDvE

3.            Emphasize Effort: Our kids often equate test scores with intelligence. Tell your child that the tests are not meant to show how smart he/she is, but rather to demonstrate what you already know and still need to learn.

4.            Validate Feelings: Because we love our children we often want to “fix” or “correct” how they are feeling instead of meeting them where they are to first validate. If your child expresses feeling worried, anxious, or down on himself, avoid saying things like “Oh come on, it will be fine!” or “That’s nonsense!”.  While statements like these come from good intentions, they often dismiss the emotion and may result in the child making more extreme statements to convince you of how bad it is for him.  Instead, try saying things like “You are not alone. Most people feel anxious about taking tests. That doesn’t mean you won’t do well.” Or “We are in a pandemic and these are not normal times. It is completely understandable to feel stressed.”

While our students are the ones who will be taking the tests, it is important that they know and feel that we are all in this together. It is important that we all work together to take care of ourselves so that we can help support and ease the minds of our amazing students.

For more information and resources on managing Test Anxiety, visit https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/tips-reduce-test-anxiety-children, check out the latest Social Emotional Learning At Home newsletter, or reach out to one of our SEL coaches!

Molly Bernard, Elementary SEL Coach - mbernard@eacs.k12.in.us
Heather Hunley, Secondary SEL Coach - hhunley@eacs.k12.in.us

Dream It! Do It!

Marilyn S. Hissong

East Allen County Schools


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