How To Help Your Child With School Anxiety
Is your child clinging to you on the way to school? Are they having a meltdown in front of the classroom? Are they frequently experiencing tummy aches before school?
Back to school is an exciting but stressful time for kids and parents alike. It gets difficult when you notice that your child is anxious about school and doesn't want to attend. It can be heartbreaking to watch your child go through all those emotions.
Below you will find out how you can help your child.
What are the signs of anxiety?
- being tearful or angry
- difficulty sleeping
- waking up at night
- problems with eating
- problems with concentration
- avoiding everyday activities
How can you help your child with school anxiety?
- Acknowledge their feelings. While their worry might sound silly to you, it’s a REAL problem for your child causing stress and anxiety. Try not to say that there is 'nothing to worry about'. Instead, listen and acknowledge that things are scary, that you are there for them and will help them overcome this problem.
- Create a routine together so your child feels more secure. Involve them in the process and write down their ideas of what they should be doing in the morning.
- Talk to your child’s teacher as soon as you notice that your child is anxious. They should offer support and advice.
- Find what helps your child to reduce stress and makes them feel better. If they get anxious on the way to school, perhaps they could walk there together with their friends. Again - figure this out with your child.
- Create a worry journal. Your child can carry it with them to write down their worries. If your child is younger and cannot write, they can draw a picture and put it in a designed box. You can create this box together and let your child decorate it. This way your child takes the worry out of their head and puts it away until ‘worry time’ when you can discuss those notes with them.
- If your child has an object that makes them feel secure, let them take it to school. Some children might still take their favourite teddy bear or a blanket to nursery or reception. This is completely normal and your child will give this up when they are ready.
- Take appropriate steps if you think your child is being bullied. Every school has its policy on dealing with bullying.
- If anxiety is severe and you are worried about your child’s mental health, you can speak to your GP to find the right support.
- Try not to be anxious about your child’s anxiety. Children can easily sense the tension and it might make things worse. Make the walk to school fun, calm and positive. You might want to give your child something to look forward to after school or at the weekend. It can be a trip, pizza and movie night, etc.
- Practise positive thinking. For example, if they forget to bring their homework, they can bring it in tomorrow and so on.
- Practise relaxing breathing techniques. For example, breathing in through their nose counting to three. Then they breathe out through their mouth counting to three. This way they can imagine that they are getting rid of the problem by breathing it out.
- Sleep! Children with anxiety often have problems falling asleep. If your child's mind is racing at bedtime try using white noise to help them settle.
- At bedtime read books about separation anxiety. Our tried and tested recommendations: The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
What is anxiety?
Your child might not realise that they are anxious. Help them to recognise this feeling so they can ask for help when they are feeling overwhelmed. Depending on your child’s age you might use this explanation: “You are feeling this way because you are worried. Worrying is normal and keeps us safe. When you worry your body is getting ready to protect you from danger and prepares you for running away. Sometimes your brain sends you false alarms and worries when the situation isn't dangerous. Your heart will be pounding, you might be shaking and your legs might feel wobbly but you have control over this! By closing your eyes and deep breathing, you can tell your brain: “it’s okay. I will bring the homework tomorrow.”
Anxiety outside of school
Sometimes children’s worries stop them from activities they enjoy. For example, if your child worries about a sleepover at their friends. Our first instinct is to tell them not to go, right? But that will strengthen the child’s anxiety. Instead, prepare your child and let them take their favourite blanket, toys and waterproof mat in case of any accidents.
Is your child anxious about school this year? Did you have any special tricks or tips to help them through it?
sources: nhs.co.uk, www.mentalhealth.org.uk, youngminds.org.uk, www.heysigmund.com
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.