Keeping a Healthy Perspective on Stress and Test Anxiety

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

understand.


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