Anxiety and Finals: 5 Ways Parents Unintentionally Increase Their Child’s Test Stress

stressed high school studentWith the end of the school year approaching, the dread of finals looms large, bringing with it a predictable companion: anxiety. As stress levels rise and exams approach, students often find themselves grappling with heightened levels of stress and pressure. While a certain degree of test stress can serve as a motivator, excessive exam anxiety can prove detrimental to a student’s well-being and academic performance.

With the best of intentions, parents sometimes contribute to their child’s stress during finals season. Without meaning to, here are five ways parents might be increasing their child’s anxiety, and how to avoid them. By understanding these pitfalls and adopting proactive strategies, parents can empower their children to approach exam day with greater confidence and resilience.

Understanding the Impact of Parental Behavior on their Student Anxiety

1. Anxiety as a Contagion

Parents, like all individuals, are susceptible to the phenomenon of anxiety. Just as a virus can spread from person to person, so too can feelings of worry and apprehension permeate a household. Parents must reflect on whether their concerns about their child’s academic performance are inadvertently influencing their interactions and conversations. Look out for anxiety symptoms in both yourself and your child.

2. All Work and No Play

In the pursuit of academic success, parents may inadvertently prioritize work over play, neglecting the importance of balance and positive emotions. Encouraging children to engage in activities that promote relaxation and enjoyment is crucial for maintaining mental well-being during stressful times.

The American Psychological Association promotes sports and exercise as a great way to relieve anxiety. Consider signing your child up for a local sports league or enrolling them in a yoga class.

3. The All-Mighty All-Nighters

Neglecting self-care and healthy sleep habits can damage students’ mental health and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and fatigue in students. While occasional late nights may be inevitable, parents should caution against making a habit of sacrificing sleep for the sake of academic pursuits. A couple of extra hours of study time will not outweigh the harm done by increased anxiety. Plan study sessions in advance to avoid the dreaded all-nighter.

4. The Blame Game

Criticizing and blaming students for perceived shortcomings can further escalate feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. Instead of focusing on past mistakes, parents should offer constructive support and guidance to help their children navigate challenges effectively. While accountability is important it is also essential that students feel safe coming to their parents with their struggles. Work together and not against each other to achieve real results.

5. College Commentary

It’s natural for parents to emphasize the importance of long-term goals, such as linking the prospect of college admissions to doing well on tests and finals. However, this can have the unintentional consequence of paralyzing your child with fear or even de-motivating them because of their existing stress and anxiety regarding these tests. Instead reframe the significance of finals in terms of short-term benefits, such as once their studying is completed, and their test taken, they can mark the occasion knowing they relax and enjoy the fact that the school year is over. earning a good grade or gaining admission to a desired program, parents can help their children stay focused and motivated.

Taking Action to Reduce Student Anxiety

In addition to identifying common pitfalls, parents need to take proactive steps to support their child’s well-being during finals time. In Part 2 of our series, we’ll explore actionable strategies for helping students manage test stress, improve study habits, and approach exams with confidence.
By recognizing how their behavior and attitudes may contribute to their child’s stress, parents can play a crucial role in fostering a positive and supportive environment during finals season. Through open communication, constructive feedback, and a focus on holistic well-being, parents can empower their children to navigate academic challenges with resilience and confidence.

Does your child struggle with test stress and anxiety? Do they wait until the last minute to study for tests?

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5 Ways Parents Unintentionally Increase Their Child’s Test Stress, Part 1 of 2