Helping Your Child Feel Confident Before Tests

A mom I know asked me if I would coach her daughter who was nervous about an important exam.

Time was short and we couldn’t make it work for me to coach her daughter. So I sent the mom an email with some brief instructions for coaching herself and her daughter to help them have a positive experience with the exam. I’ve edited the letter and taken out names. If your own child is struggling or worried (and you are too), try inserting his or her name into the info below. Change the situation to match yours. My hope is that this info will be helpful to you and your child.
Dear Mom-

Thanks for asking me to coach your child. It’s too bad the timing didn’t work out, but I’m sending a mini email coaching session with hopes that you, your husband and your daughter are prepared for test day. Work through the steps below, starting with yourself. Then, coach your child if she’s open to it.

Our energy and emotions affect our children. Sometimes calming yourself and getting yourself centered is the best thing you can do to support your child.

VERY IMPORTANT: Only coach your child if you think it won’t stress her out and if she’s open to it.

In your message, you said that you feel you haven’t done enough as parents to prepare your child for this test. Thinking like that makes you feel awful, right? And this causes worry. Worry never gets us anything but more worry. Worry, stress, anger or fear means you are thinking untrue thoughts. Cleaning up this type of thinking and finding new more positive thoughts will empower you to parent from a clean place.

First – Start by checking in with yourself so you can make sure you’re PARENTING FROM A CLEAN PLACE.

1. Check yourself:

Consider the following:
Are you coming from a place of love and support for your child?
Have you checked your expectations?
Are they realistic?
Can you drop your expectations completely and simply offer unconditional encouragement?

Go through the next steps in order to help you stand in a loving place. Clearing your own mind and shifting your perspective will help you know the best actions to take for you and your child in this situation.

2. Change unhelpful thoughts to those that are supportive:

Every thought we think creates a feeling in our body. When we think thoughts that make us feel bad or stressed, our actions suffer and so do our results.

You both may need to find thoughts that are helpful and supportive. Thoughts are very personal, but sometimes a thought that works for you may also work for your child. If your daughter is worried or upset, I’d guess you typically offer her thoughts that help to ease her suffering. Many parents “coach” their kids in a way that’s similar to how I coach clients. But the thing I want you to notice is that when you help your child with new perspectives, she only feels better when she believes the new thoughts you suggest to her.

Help yourself and your child find a thought that makes you feel good.
Try on a thought like this or tweak it so that it fits for you: “I’ve done my best to help her prepare for the test”.
Another that helped me when my son was taking a similar test: “He has everything he needs right now to do his best on this test.”

The thought I chose helped me feel calm and positive. From this point of view, I didn’t worry about whether I had done enough for my son. I also didn’t doubt his skills. I was able to be calm and supportive with him and not obsess about the process on my own or in front of him. You might as well relax and not worry, yes? You can be your own coach (and your daughter’s too) by finding some thoughts that create the feelings you want to have leading up to the test.

NOTE: There may have been times you tried to suggest new ideas to your child that were rejected. Consider that your child rejected some of your thought suggestions because she didn’t believe them or the thought didn’t resonate with her. It’s probably not because she is being a difficult (pre)teen.

3. To find the most helpful thought, it can help to first choose how you want to feel:

When we feel good, we take positive, empowered actions. When we feel bad, our actions reflect those feelings. Remember that what we choose to think is either supportive or not. Thoughts cause feelings.

Ask: “How do you want to feel when you take the test?”
Once she tells you the feeling she wants, ask: “What thought can you think that creates that feeling?”

Kids understand this process pretty quickly and they can usually find the thought themselves. If my son can’t think of a new thought, I suggest some and we tweak and adjust until he feels the feeling he wants when he thinks the thought. We always make sure that he believes the new thought.

A thought that often works for my son is: “I can do this.”

But we’ve found others that work too. If finding a better thought is tricky, have your child think of a time she felt confident doing something she’s good at.

Ask: “When you felt confident doing __________, what were you thinking?”
Start with that thought.
Tweak and adjust and test it out until the thought provides the desired feeling for her in this particular instance.

Even after you coach your child and help her find a thought that feels good, she may not ace her test. But, if she is feeling confident and relaxed, she’s more likely to do well, right? Please continue to be supportive no matter the outcome.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know how it goes!

With love,