How to Encourage Your Child on Test Days

Needing encouragement
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As the test prep expert, I often get emails from parents asking for help with things like studying with their children, test prep techniques, easing test anxiety and more. Recently, I received an email from a mom who wanted nothing more than to encourage her daughter on test days. She could perceive - although nothing was said - that something wasn't quite right with her child on days when she had a presentation or test to take. She wanted to support her daughter in the kindest way possible. 

Read the email she sent to me and the response I offered her to help her child feel the best she possibly could on test days. 

Hi Kelly,

How can I be more encouraging to my daughter on test days? She hasn't said that she's worried or anything, but I can just tell that something is up with her when she has a quiz or exam. Is there an activity we could do in the morning on the way to school?

Kind regards,


Dear ~~~~~~~,

If your daughter needs encouragement on test days, perhaps she's experiencing some test-taking anxiety, which can stem from different emotional places. To find out what's bothering her, start a conversation on the way to school since you drive her there every morning. It's a great time to have a conversation since the pressure is low - you have to watch the road and she can look out the window if she doesn't want to make eye contact.  

Use a statement like, "I can tell you're feeling discouraged about something. Is it the test? Would you like to tell me your feelings about it?" This kind of conversation starter gives her some wiggle room if she's not up to chatting, but more than likely, she'll open up about her worries if they're test-related because you may have a solution for her. So probe a bit. Does she have a fear of failure? Is she worried about disappointing you or her teacher? Does she feel like she's not prepared?

Once you know the root of the discouragement, you can encourage her by sharing your own experiences and boosting her self-esteem. Start by discussing moments in your life when you've been similarly discouraged. (Fear of failure during a new job? That time you felt unprepared for your finals in grad school?) Talk about the ways you overcame it to go on to complete the task you needed to do. Or, tell her about your failure. It's good for a kid to see that her parent is always perfect. Tell her what you learned from failing. 

Then, boost her confidence with heartfelt praise. Describe one of her strengths; maybe she's a great shot in basketball or a creative writer. Show her how she can use those skills on test day. Scoring two points in hoops requires concentration, and since she's already good at that, she can use her powerful focusing skills to zoom in on the right answers. Being a creative writer means she can think outside the box. Confidence in one area can cross into others, especially if you help build the bridge.

Most importantly, let her know that her score will never impact your love for her. You'll love her just as much whether she bombs the test or aces it. Even if she knows it already, hearing you say that she has your devotion regardless of her actions may help calm her anxiety if she's been telling herself something different.

All my best to you,