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Handling Test Stress

Shannon Reincke, of Grand Rapids, was understandably concerned when her 10-year-old son, Carter, started complaining that he was having headaches, and asked to be picked up at school several days in a row.

As it turned out, though, Carter wasn't sick  -- just anxious about his upcoming standardized tests.

With all the pressure to excel on these tests these days, it's no wonder kids (and parents!) experience exam-related angst. "A certain amount of anxiety is helpful in motivating kids, but too much can interfere with concentration," says Paul Foxman, Ph.D., author of The Worried Child. To help your child cope:

* Boost her confidence. Remind her of what a good writer she is, or of some other skill she has.

* Be prepared. Make sure her school supplies are packed up the night before the test, so she won't have the added anxiety of tracking them down.

* Keep her healthy. Have her get a good night's sleep, and eat a full breakfast. They'll give your child more energy and a sense of control.

* Be realistic. Bottom line: "No single test is going to determine your child's future," says Foxman. Encouraging her to try her hardest may be the best way to help your child make the grade.