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Don't Sweat It

Here are six ways to help your kids get over their fear of taking tests.
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Jerry Seinfeld once said that people's number-one fear is of public speaking, followed by the fear of death. "Death is number two," he marveled. "This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

He was talking about performance anxiety, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure. They exist in all of us, so if Seinfeld expanded his list, he'd probably find that fear of test-taking is right up there in the top five.

From our earliest spelling tests to the SATs (not to mention driving tests), test-taking stress is something we've all experienced. But there are some simple ways to lessen it:

Talk to Your Child About How Test-Taking Makes Her Feel
Discussing with your child exactly what scares her -- the fear of forgetting everything on test day, or the fear of disappointing Mom and Dad -- gives you the chance to ease her specific fears. And you can share some of your own experiences as a student. In stressful situations, it's a comfort to know that others have been there before you and made it through just fine.

Encourage Your Child to Communicate with Her Teacher
Teachers want kids to succeed, so a quick chat after class might convey some helpful information, and it will show the teacher that your student cares about her performance. A teacher might even offer some information that calms her: "Don't worry about that section. You won't be asked any questions about it."

Help Your Child Be Prepared Academically
Remind him to answer the easy questions first and to use all the test time available. Before the test, help him study the material and then quiz him. Praise him for all he knows and review the areas where he's weak. Consider a trial run. Students usually know which format their test will be (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, etc.), so if you have time, prepare a mock test that your child can take at home. When the test day arrives, he'll feel that he's already been there.

Help Your Child Be Prepared Physically
A well-rested brain is a clearer brain. If your student isn't rested, she'll have trouble thinking clearly and staying focused. See that she gets eight-to-ten hours of sleep the night before a test. And make sure she's well fed. A breakfast with protein and complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, eggs and cereals energizes much more effectively than out-the-door foods like muffins or high-sugar snack bars.

Take the Pressure Off
Make sure that your student knows that it's not the end of the world if he doesn't do well on the test. But also let him know that you expect him to do his best.

Send Her Off with a Smile
A big "Good luck!" or "Go get 'em, Honey" from Mom can do wonders for a child's outlook, especially on the day of a test. Leave a happy note in her lunch to remind her that you're on her side no matter what.

Remember, kids are watching you. If you're anxious, they're likely to be anxious. So be calm. And when the test results come back, give your child a big hug, regardless of how well she did. If her results are disappointing, let her know that together you're going to do better the next time.

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