Testing Jitters

My youngest son woke up this morning very nervous. He complained of stomach pains and didn't eat much breakfast, claiming he wasn't hungry. So of course I used an at-home COVID test to see if he was ok. While waiting the standard 15 minutes for the results he asked me, "If I am positive, does that mean I don't have to take my math test today?" 

Just like that, I learned that although my son may be COVID negative he was not ok.

Testing jitters (professionally known as "testing anxiety") was getting the best of him. All week he refused to do his homework despite gentle encouragement from his adults. Now he was unprepared for the test. I could have forced him to do his homework this week and study for the test, but I decided this time to as my grandma would say "let life teach him this lesson,"  and allowed natural consequences to unfold.

Natural consequences being that they are, my son wakes up on the testing day too nervous to eat because he knows he is going to underperform on a test. He is a perfectionist by nature and hates scoring low on tests. Understanding how anxious he was, I knew it was not yet the time to lecture him about the missing homework assignments and refusal to study. The conversation went something like this: 

 I said " You know kid, a test is just your way of letting the teacher know what you have learned. If you didn't learn the concepts, the worst thing will be is you have to repeat the work." 

He looks at me and says, " True."  

Then I continued, "So if you don't pass today, you will repeat the assignments and take the test again next week right?" 

His eyes had that sad puppy look when he said, " yea."   

Now was the perfect time to bring up the obvious so I said, "And you will not have the jitters next time because you'll complete your homework assignments like you are supposed to... right?  And you will be prepared for next week's test... right?"    

He just looked at me sadly and said, "right."

Although I am that parent who brings up the obvious, I am not the kind of parent who likes to dwell on the negative.  So I said, " What's done is done. Just do your best today. Remember this is just another test. You will learn from this and prepare better for the next test. Grabbing his hands, I continued, "Let's take some deep breaths and relax, ok." He agrees and after a few breathing exercises his jitters went away, the smile turned into a frown, and he ate breakfast.   

Was it magic that caused his jitters to go away? Of course not, I am a parent who still gets testing jitters whenever I take an exam. Because my anxiety can be debilitating, I learned some strategies and techniques that help me cope during tests. Techniques that I am passing along to my children. 

So if you are a parent who is looking for tips and tricks to help your child with the testing jitters beyond the obvious of studying, here are some resources to explore: 

UC Davis: Student Health and Counseling Services - Test Taking and Anxiety

PBS Kids: Six Ways To Help Kids Tackle Test Anxiety

Test Anxiety & What You Can Do About It

Bad Kitty Takes the Test

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society

School Made Easier