We all know exams create a stressful anxious time for students. But how can we help children deal with this? Their heartbeat races, they feel like they can’t catch their breath and they get a little case of the shivers. These signs, whilst nothing to fret more about, may be indicative that a student suffers from exam anxiety. Like we said, everyone from time to time may have a rumble in the tummy when an exam is upcoming, but some of these reactions can be debilitating and impact their performance.
When we all get anxious, the brain listens and spits out a dose of adrenaline to try to combat the anxious tendencies. But when in an exam situation, sometimes it’s not possible to put that adrenaline to use. So that makes it extra tricky. Encourage your child to be aware of when the anxiety kicks. Encourage them to come to terms with both the physical and emotional tells that come up when they feel the anxiety come on.
One of the easiest ways to calm thoughts is meditation. And yes, we know that your child is in an exam room but there are many types of meditation that don’t include distracting peers with hums and burning candles. A trusty tip is to encourage your child to focus on their breath. Block out the anxious thoughts swirling in the brain and focus on the length and strength of their breath.
Something else to pull out of the hat is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn’t involve blocking out the tiny anxious voices or focusing on the breath, but it does involve focusing on the present. During the exam, whether it be at the start, the end or throughout the whole exam, children can focus on that moment. Tell them to think about their anxiety and the thoughts that it is promoting. When they consider the thoughts, the significance of it all seems a little less significant.
Next up, is visualization. Again, it can be before or during the exam, but encourage your child to visualize themselves walking to the room, all calm and confident. Keep doing it, answering questions, working through the exam and even walking out of the exam room calm and confident again. The thinking behind visualization is that dreaming up a situation that presents a relaxed environment, may help the situation that’s occurring in real life.
Hyping up themselves is also something that can add some confidence to the equation. If your child is walking into the exam with negative thoughts, it’s not going to help the situation. When they leave for school, add some positive encouragement to get the positivity swarming in their heads. So then, possibly when Mr Negative starts to creep in they’ll have those positive comments to swat him off.
When it comes to anxiety, it’s all about generating a positive and safe environment and in this case, that’s (unfortunately for students) in the exam room.