There is a lot that has been written about exams & specifically how to overcome exam phobia around this time of the year. Exam phobia also known as testophobia is the irrational fear that grips your child and plays intense havoc in their lives for short periods of time every academic year.
The focus of this article by Rahul George is primarily to show you how you can help your child overcome deep exam phobia around this time of the year.
About the Author
Rahul George has a private practice working with students and adults teaching them how to remove their fears & phobias to create powerful habits that help you too live beautiful lives and be your best everyday. He has trained in U.S.A, UK and India in mind sciences and well-being.
He can be reached at [email protected]
Rahul says- these lessons will not only stand them in good stead at the present moment but also for years to come as they take on tougher and higher stakes courses in further education and their career.
How can you help in reducing Exam Phobia
- Find out what your child is worried about specifically – you might have a tendency to mind read
- Instead of saying, “Do not have the fear of exams”, ask specific questions to alleviate their fears and diffuse their stress
- If you have a real story of how you managed to overcome your own fear, share it in detail
- If you know of others who overcame their fears, encourage your child to hear their stories
- Be relentless in finding the right professional who can help them get a grip over their intense fear of exams if you aren’t able to succeed on your own
Where to begin when dealing with Exam Fear
Start with self-reflection
Checking in with yourself is a powerful way to begin this process. Finding out where you stand can also help you get perspective on your own child and their struggles
- Have you explored your own exam fear – making presentations, board meetings?
- What do you do in your mind to be able to have these fears?
- What would make you believe that your fears are imagined and not real?
- Who are you beyond your own fears?
- How do other people overcome their exam fear and do well – in the many areas in your life you want to succeed?
- What’s the worst that could happen if your child doesn’t score good grades” ?
- What does your child thinks will happen if they “fail” or get low grades?
- Do you brush off their fears as being irrational or even as a phase?
- What’s the best thing that can happen if they “fail”?
These details can help minimize judgement or bias & be better prepared to help your child.
Remember the act of giving an exam isn’t one time – the sooner you are able to help your child find a different way of dealing with the way they had been thinking, the sooner they will look forward to testing and moving on to the next challenge – much like playing the multiple levels of a video game.
In fact, chances are they don’t even realize each level of the video game is a “test”.
What can you say to reduce your child’s exam phobia?
Here are the 4 specific ways of asking questions to help your child lessen or reduce their exam fear now. These methods have also helped my clients completely bust their exam phobia.
Look at it from a distance
In it or looking at it
Ask your child when they think of the exam – and feel the fear or phobia – can they see a picture of themselves in the exam hall taking the test. This would be akin to watching a video or a movie of themselves taking the exam.
Why is this important
Till now in order to have the extreme fear in the moment, they would have imagined being in the exam hall taking the test, being unprepared and blanking out well before the exam day. The power of being able to picture themselves lies in helping them notice their environment and make space between themselves and their own fear. Repeated rehearsal in their mind is what will get triggered when they actually take the exam the next time.
Listen to your inner critic
Inner voice or hero
Ask your child to recognize their own inner voice then they are feeling the extreme fear – chances are the voice will sound critical, doubtful or even mean. Now ask them to replace it with a voice that is more calming or happy. This alternate inner voice can even try to speak the previous negative dialogue. Your child will now have a very different experience & response to what used to cause them panic.
Why is this important
We all have an inner dialogue and also have the ability to change it at will. However in stressful situations, we seldom tend to be aware of the inner critical voice until we pay attention to it. What’s also powerful is that once we run this new way of inner-speak, our internal response will change with sufficient practice.
Explore what is the worst that can happen
Ask your child what do they think will happen if they fail or get bad grades or low marks. If your child has been repeatedly having stress and extreme fear around exam time, chances are they haven’t been able to look past the test in their minds or the future they see is the very worst case scenario. Without interjecting, have them talk freely about what they think would happen if they don’t get the grades they believe they should be getting or better yet the grades you think they should get.
Why is this important
Encouraging your child to speak in specific terms is one way to help them realize that their whole life ahead of them will be beautiful and fun regardless of the marks they score in the exam.
Look at someone else for inspiration
Another way to change how they think about exams is to help them take an active part in imagining their role models – someone they believe is successful at doing tests & exams. This could be an older sibling or even a classmate. Ask your child to describe at length what makes this person so great at taking tests. How do they overcome exam fears around this time of the year.
Why is this important
Allowing them to be able to immerse themselves in the minds of their role-model creates a different neural pathway in their mind. This sets up your child for the future when they come face to face with the trigger of the exam – they will know how to respond differently rather than the old response pattern.
The good news is exam phobias is a learnt behavior and like any behavior can be replaced with a stronger more powerful behavior, your child too can learn to not only have control over this but also look forward to challenging themselves.