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Children's Health

More Tests = More Anxiety

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WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Walecia Konrad

Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo Most kids get jitters before an exam. But these days, many kids are feeling outright panic.

One reason is the increase in standardized tests. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all public school students must take annual exams in reading and math in grades three through eight, then again at least once in high school; starting with the 2007/08 school year, they'll also have to take science exams. These tests are a big deal, and kids who don't pass will face serious consequences. In some states, a child who fails any one will be held back-no matter how well he may have done in class. And a school may lose federal funding if too many students fail.

So how can you help your kid deal with the pressure? Below, some advice from Joseph Casbarro, Ph.D., a 30-year-veteran school administrator, psychologist, and author of Test Anxiety & What You Can Do About It.

Q: What are some signs that test anxiety is becoming a problem?

I'll never forget the time when my daughter was in fourth grade, facing her first standardized reading test. She woke up in the middle of the night, calling out, "Daddy, Daddy, I can't sleep. I'm worried about tomorrow's test." Kids with test anxiety may lose sleep, like my daughter did, obsess for days, or feel physical symptoms such as an upset stomach. Other kids will give up, figuring they aren't good test takers, so why bother studying.

Whatever symptoms your child shows, try not to add to the anxiety. If you're tense yourself, your child is a lot more likely to follow suit. You do need to talk to her, though, to help her understand what she's feeling. So ask questions instead of making statements that may sound critical. For example, rather than "You'd better study for the math test next week, I've heard that it's really hard," try "Do you know what's covered on the math test? Do you feel prepared?" You can also comfort her by acknowledging that you were scared about big tests too; it will reassure her that she's having a normal reaction.

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