Exam anxiety is a common situation that students have experienced both in central exams (such as LGS, YKS) and school exams. In this process, it will be much easier to help our children when exam anxiety is analyzed well as a parent. The uncertainty of fear is what we call anxiety. Since the result of the exam is not known, we also create fear and this situation is perceived as a threat by our primitive brain. The human brain has three reactions to threats. Run, fight, dumbass. If we see the exam as bigger than ourselves, we run away or freeze; procrastination, abandonment, procrastination, etc. as. When we think we are smaller than ourselves or we can handle it, we fight. So if we believe and trust ourselves, we fight. In this situation, students experiencing test anxiety give physiological and psychological reactions to the exam in the same way as the physical reactions of the first people when they are afraid of the bear.
Why does test anxiety occur?
Worrying about something shows that we care about it. Whether we care too much or not at all is the real problem. An optimal, that is, moderate level of anxiety is important to turn a behavior into performance.
-Focusing on the result rather than the process of the exam:
We are a society that generally celebrates success, and there is a small minority who see failure as an opportunity to learn. But this is the joke of success. When we look at the lives of all successful people, it is full of failure stories. In all studies, it has been observed that positive results occur when the process, that is, the effort, is appreciated in children rather than the result.
-Catastrophizing the exam result:
They are thoughts such as no matter what I do, I will not be able to win/pass, I will not be successful in this exam, I will not be able to complete the exam for sure, and I will forget what I know.
Catastrophizing is one of the cognitive mistakes our minds make to us. The constant vigilance of our brain to protect us from potential dangers always pushes us to think the worst. But this is unrealistic, one of the tricks our brain plays to keep us alive. When we realize that this is a cognitive error, we can say that he manages the exam process well and this is reflected in the exam performance.
The thought that his personality will be evaluated, not his knowledge:
I have to be very successful to be appreciated, how will I look at my family’s face if I can’t win, I’ll be disgraced if I don’t succeed, I shouldn’t make any mistakes in this exam, if I do, it means I’m worthless and unsuccessful.
These kinds of thoughts are cognitive errors because the exam result examines the student’s study behavior, not his personality.
How should I approach if my child has test anxiety?
Remember that your child is in adolescence. This period is a turbulent and dilemma. When you want to solve problems or make suggestions for your child, know that he or she may not see the same things as you. For example, on a beautiful sunny day, you can do your work even though you don’t want to, but your child will have difficulty studying in such weather.
Worries about your child’s future are reflected in your child. Anxiety is contagious! First of all, perhaps as parents, we can ask ourselves the following question: “Is this anxiety mine or my child’s?” Therefore, first of all, families should try to reduce their own anxiety. Anxious people cannot stay in the moment, they live in the future. And he sets up negative scenarios about the future. What is going on with my child scares me so much and is the thought realistic? Being too busy with the exam result will increase your child’s busyness in this direction. To help your child, you can be interested in what your child is doing today.
Pay attention to the messages you give with body language and tone of voice. Parents sometimes tell their children; “The exam is not important to us, it’s okay if you don’t win. They make suggestions such as “don’t bother, don’t worry about it”. They make suggestions such as ‘I trust you’. Saying I trust you is perceived by children as I expect from you.
If you can observe that your child is really working, it may be more effective to say “I see how much effort you put into it, no effort goes unrewarded”.
The words should be used carefully. “You have to be at least as clear as this. You should do full chemistry and biology, your friend got 100, you should get it too, you should be successful. You must be careful, you must give yourself to your lesson, you must win this year” sentences expressing necessity cause the student’s anxiety to increase. Try to use such imperative words as little as possible.
Don’t say study. There is no need for parents’ warnings for students who know their responsibilities and prepare for exams. The student can decide for himself how much to study and when to study. The well-intentioned study messages of parents can increase student anxiety. For this reason, some students may feel more anxious because they think that they should study for their family, not for themselves. Or, he may interfere with his studies by reacting to his family.
Avoid negative motivation. Some parents to increase the motivation of their children; He says things like “you can never win at this rate, you can’t win a horizontal exam”. But negative motivation succeeds in very few students. It can even increase the student’s anxiety by causing the student to see himself as unsuccessful.
Avoid excessive sacrifices and do not remind them. Some parents make too many sacrifices when their children are preparing for exams. For example, not inviting guests to the house for a year, not turning on the TV at home. While families think that they make sacrifices for their children, the student may worry more about this situation by thinking ‘I have to respond to these sacrifices of my family’. In particular, repeating these sacrifices can make the student unable to study.
Don’t forget your own life. Some families whose children are preparing for exams leave their own lives aside and start to struggle for their children. In order to help her child more, the mother quits her job, the mother waits for her child at the door of the exam halls, and talks with the teachers about the results every day. These images remind the child that the exam is very important and that the family will be very upset if they do not win. Remember that you have your own life and you must have your own plans. Thus, you can help both yourself and your child more.
Try to be realistic in your expectations of your child. Every parent thinks that their child is more special. However, each person may have strengths in certain areas and weaknesses in certain areas when viewed objectively. If your expectations and what your child can do are compatible with each other, your child may experience less anxiety.
Be understanding and supportive of your children during this difficult time. With the intensification of anxiety, your children may feel more helpless and unresolved. Therefore, they may be more reactive. They may now react more strongly to things they weren’t angry at before. Try to be understanding towards your child by thinking that this situation is temporary.
Never compare your child with other children. Approaches such as “uncle’s daughter entered the Bosphorus, you should go there too” can harm your child. Each individual is a separate personality. You can only compare your child with himself when necessary. In other words, by comparing the previous behavior patterns with the current behavior patterns, you can reveal the observed changes in between.