By Vidisha Patel.
April is one of my favorite months of the year. April signifies the advent of spring, and
with it comes the promise of longer days and warmer weather and a sense of hope that
winter is finally behind us. For our school-going children, spring also marks the
commencement of the “testing season.” In Florida, where I currently live, standardized
testing takes place this month, followed by final exams.
Test taking can be stressful for many individuals, and when you add gifted tendencies to
the mix, stress levels can reach alarming levels. In some instances, gifted students get
so anxious and stressed about assessments that they are not able to function. Normal,
everyday tasks are forgotten, and simple assignments become too complex to
Parents can assist their children to ease the stress and anxiety around test taking in a
variety of ways.
Face the fear. Start by helping children acknowledge their anxiety. Fear is an emotion
that can be addressed only when it is acknowledged. One way to understand fear is to
consider it as False Evidence Appearing Real. How many times do we become fearful
about something that has not yet happened? Usually, fear is based in anticipation of an
event and is exacerbated by our imagination. Gifted children frequently have vivid
imaginations, so the fear is further exaggerated. “What if my pencil breaks and I have
nothing to write with…?” “What if I don’t know the answer and waste my time stuck on
one problem?” “What if….?” You get the picture. Initially, many of the anxieties may be
plausible, but when taken out of context, they become a problem. Verbalizing the
thoughts allows the child to “hear” the fear and opens the door for a concrete discussion
and further conversation.
Create confidence. Anxiety frequently stems from a lack of confidence in oneself. It
may sound shocking, but many gifted kids do not fully recognize their capabilities. They
may downplay their abilities and lack confidence in themselves. Adults can help them
understand how prepared they are. As a parent, you can assist your child by reviewing
with them and reminding them of what they know. Sometimes children get so caught up
in how much they do not know that they forget what they do know. Prior to a test, spend
time with your child discussing what material needs to be covered, how much they
already are comfortable with, and what they may need to focus on. This is not to
suggest that you study with your child, but merely assist anxious children to get started