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Helping children deal with test anxiety

As the school year begins to wind down, tests become a big focus for students across the state.

Some of them may experience test anxiety, which can impact test performance. But experts say there are ways to help these children.

Chronic worriers and perfectionists tend to struggle with test anxiety more, said Megan Sislowski, a school counselor.

“Because of the marketing of the test, they are more publicized. The uncertainty of the new testing standards and their implications for what they mean for graduation (add to anxiety),” she said.

Test anxiety symptoms include:

  • Butterflies or stomachache
  • Tension headache
  • Feeling shaky or sweaty
  • Fear of passing out or throwing up

How can a parent know if their child is struggling?

“If your kid seems especially irritable or if your kid is not sleeping, or even not eating or maybe overeating. Procrastination … any change in behavior that you don't normally see,” Sislowski said.

She suggests teaching the child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization and positive thinking. Reduce stress at home by having no extra plans during test week. Encourage good study habits so the student is prepared. Also, teach your child to accept and learn from mistakes, she said.

Another suggestion: make sure students get enough sleep, exercise and brain-boosting food.

On exam day, consider protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts, yogurt or whole grain cereal with low-fat milk. Fresh fruit can help with energy and mental alertness, experts say.

Also, avoid foods made of white flour and sugar such as cookies, cakes and muffins, and make sure students drink enough water before and during the exam. Dehydration can affect concentration, they say.

Experts warn that if it is going to be a long test it might be a good idea to pack a healthy snack such as trail mix or a protein bar.