A little anxiety often goes a long way in motivating us to perform better. It gives us the much-needed push to go beyond our capacity and prove ourselves in anything we do. For instance, before a simple test, all of us are prone to getting nervous before we go out and give any kind of performance. However, for some, this anxiety goes to a whole new level, where it reaches such an extent that it affects performance. This is what is known as test anxiety, that is recognizable by some very specific symptoms. Young children are most affected by this condition; but why does this happen?
Nervousness is common, but why do children get excessively anxious before a test or an exam? This may be due to the following reasons:
- The Pressure to Perform by Parents: If you find yourself to be one of those parents who is constantly pressurizing their children to do well by comparing them with others, it is likely that your child may take this negatively and develop test anxiety.
- The Fear of Failure: With the pressure to perform also comes the expectation of parents which children fear they may let down. This fear reaches such an extent that it wrecks their thinking and affects their performance in a test.
- The Inability to Prepare: Procrastination or the inability to prepare well before an exam can be another reason why your child may be breaking into cold sweats before a test. This usually happens because of the fear of the test.
These are some of the prime reasons why children are likely to experience test anxiety. Moreover, in some cases, a bad experience during a test or poor performance on a test in the past for which they were severely reprimanded can result in a negative association to tests, and show up by way of some symptoms that have been discussed below.
What are the Symptoms of Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety shows itself by way of physical and psychological symptoms. These have been enlisted here:
Unusual Aches and Pains
Some children are known to develop pains and aches in different parts of the body just before a test. For instance, a stomach ache or a pain in the arm or leg is usually spoken of by a student. However, if a medical check is done on such students, no physical symptom or cause for the pain is evident. This shows that the fear in them is so deep that they unconsciously manifest a reason not to give the test.
Severe test anxiety in some cases may result in panic attacks. This in turn may exhibit symptoms such as palpitations, heavy sweating, clammy hands, shortness of breath, an increase in heartbeat, and even nausea and vomiting.
Changes in Appetite
Children may also experience changes in appetite due to test anxiety. While some may eat a lot due to the nervousness, others may not be able to stand the sight of food, and may end up vomiting if forced to eat.
Children who fear tests so much are likely to suffer from insomnia a few days before the test. They may be unable to sleep the nights leading to the day of the test, and this results in confusion and loss of concentration because of the physical and mental fatigue.
Loss of Focus
Test anxiety reaches an extent where it begins to affect the clarity of thought needed to perform well in a test. The presence of mind, focus, and concentration are all lost because of the fear that has overcome the student.
Feelings of Desolation
Children who find themselves in such situations tend to feel desolate and helpless. They find themselves trapped in a web that they can't seem to get out of. This further results in anger and guilt because of the inability to perform.
The anger, guilt, and helplessness causes a child to feel inefficient and incompetent. This in turn affects her/his self image, which can be both a symptom and an effect of test anxiety.
As you can see, one symptom leads to another and then becomes a vicious circle that continues until a thorough effort is made to break it. This requires not only personal effort, but continual support from parents and peers. Since someone who has test anxiety has a low self-image, the support is needed to encourage a positive perception of the self and develop faith in the fact that they are as good as anyone else. Speaking to teachers in school and charting out an organized long-term study plan together can also go a long way in overcoming test anxiety.
Finally, parents need to make an effort to stop pressurizing their children into performing, as well as comparing them with the neighbor's children. Being good in studies is not the only key to success. Focus on your child and her/his talent. Some children are not cut out for straight A's in every subject. Their interests lie elsewhere. Believe in them and allow them the freedom to be who they want to be. These stressful situations will never arise then.