How to Know if Your Kid Has Test Anxiety
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:
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.
You are likely to spot behavioral changes the night before or morning of a test. Look for these signs:
- Doesn’t want to go to school
- 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