How can I help my child deal with exam anxiety?

22 Oct 2020

Exam anxiety is a real thing, and many children go through it. Since we are heading towards the end of the year, learners across the country are anticipating their final year exam. This can be a break and make for children, as they want to succeed. 

We had a chat with an educational psychologist to come up with strategies to help your child deal with exam anxiety. 

What causes exam anxiety 

Exam anxiety is caused by several things that include the fear of exams, being unprepared and being worried about the outcome of the exams. Like adults, children also stress and worry about the things that have an impact on their lives. Therefore, it is crucial to deal with the stress and help your child get through their anxiety before the exam. 

Clinical Psychologist Dr Opperman shares the following tips to help your child curb their anxiety or fears. 

“Anxiety can also cause fear; for example, experiencing exam anxiety can cause on to fear writing exams, entering a formal exam room, etc.,” Dr Opperman says. 

What steps can you take to help calm your child before the exam?

STEP 1: Discuss your child’s fears 

The first step is to talk to your child about how they are feeling and what is stressing them. Find out what fears they have. Once you’ve gone through what your child is stressing about, come up with a plan that will help to deal with the anxiety. For example, if your child feels they are not prepared for the exam, help them come up with a plan to prepare for the exam. Reassure them that you will do everything you can to help them and you are there to help. This is a great way to show your child that you support them. 

STEP 2: Give your child a strong support structure 

Having a strong support structure is very important during exams as it will help alleviate the pressure and anxiousness caused by exams. If your child is old enough, ask them to plan their study timetable ahead of time to avoid them feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of work they have to study. 

STEP 3: Help them find comfortable space 

Help your child find a comfortable and well-lit space in the house. Being in a relaxed environment will enable your child to work without any distractions.

STEP 4: Find a study method that works 

When studying, your child needs to find a study method that works for them. This helps retain content and recall them easily during exams. 

“The above seems like obvious strategies for exam preparation to ensure that you do not become anxious during the exam period; however, from a psychological perspective, many learners have anxiety that cannot be managed by just being healthy, organised, and having a routine,” he says. He further explains that there are modalities, such as Bilateral Stimulation and Emotional Freedom that can be used to reduce anxiety. 

STEP 5: Eat, healthy and get enough sleep 

Make sure your child eats well and goes to bed early and have what they need to make their study time effectively. 

“It is also important to note that some learners have learning difficulties and disabilities (Dyslexia, processing problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc.) which can also trigger feelings of anxiousness and can be assessed by an Educational Psychologist,” says Dr Opperman.