How to Know if Your Kid Has Test Anxiety


Image via Pexels

Testing season is upon us once again, and my phone is ringing off the hook with questions about opting out. The majority of these questions come from parents concerned about test anxiety. In some cases, the child struggled with anxiety during testing in the past. In other cases, the child shows some signs of mild anxiety and the parent worries that the testing will be too much.

It’s perfectly natural for kids to worry before a big test. Whether it’s a standardized test or a weekly spelling test, some kids experience more anticipatory anxiety than others. More often then not, however, those kids are just fine once they get started. Test anxiety is a different story.

With the pushing down of academics, kids are sitting for more tests at younger ages. There was a time when I only received phone calls about academic stress for middle schoolers and beyond, but these days even the youngest learners are struggling.

Before you march into your child’s school and demand fewer tests, however, it’s important to consider whether or not your child actually has test anxiety. Not every child who worries about a test experiences test anxiety. Sometimes worry is just, well, worry.

How do you know the difference between age appropriate worry and test anxiety? Look for some of the following changes in your child:

Behavioral changes.

You know your child best. If your normally happy-go-lucky child suddenly seems decidedly unhappy and it isn’t just a one-time thing, it’s time to investigate. In the movies, anxious people are always obsessively discussing their long worry lists and biting off their nails, but kids don’t necessarily act that way.

{ MORE: What To Do if Your Kid is Petrified of Halloween }

You are likely to spot behavioral changes the night before or morning of a test. Look for these signs:

  • Clinginess
  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Procrastination
  • Irritablity
  • Crying more than usual

When children with test anxiety first encounter a test, they encounter several symptoms all at once. Ask your child if she ever experiences these feelings when she sees a test:

  • Mind goes “blank”
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Forgetfulness

What do you think?

How to Know if Your Kid Has Test Anxiety

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

Tell us what you think!


Get a FREE Newborn Sleep Guide when you sign up for our newsletter

By joining the community, you will have access to our active community of mothers just like you, interactive tools, sweepstakes, free baby offers and more! You will also receive customized newsletters tailored specifically to you and special offers directly in your inbox.By joining the community, you will have access to our active community of mothers, interactive tools, sweepstakes, free baby offers, customized email newsletters tailored specifically to you and special offers directly in your inbox.

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date

By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend