4 Reasons Why Children Are Anxious About School

Most kids would rather be doing something than be seated at a school desk. They crave freedom and movement but they also find things about school that excite them. For example, it is a primary source of socializing in many children’s lives. However, some students struggle with intense anxiety when it comes to their academic routine.

The reasons and signs may vary but the distress is genuine. At times, it can feel debilitating. As a parent, you must recognize the symptoms of and reason for school anxiety. This will empower you to help your child manage anxiety and thrive again.

Common Signs That Your Child is Anxious About School

In general: 

  • Very little or no socializing with classmates 
  • Academic problems like poor grades, not doing homework, or unable to pay attention
  • Panic when called on in class
  • Unable to sit still or make eye contact in class
  • Physical issues like digestive problems, rapid breathing, headaches, and increased heart rate

More specific to children who are 10 and under:

  • Refuse to get themselves ready for school
  • Temper tantrums 
  • Clinginess 
  • Sleep disturbances (including nightmares)

Adolescents and teens:

  • Won’t participate in any school or extracurricular activities 
  • Truancy and absence 
  • Self-harm

4 Reasons Why Children Are Anxious About School

1. Trauma

This could relate to something that happened in the past. Or perhaps there’s a crisis happening now. In addition, trauma can be caused by news stories about dangers in school — particularly if there have been incidents in your child’s specific school. Such scenarios are known causes of different types of anxiety disorders (see #2).

2. Anxiety Disorder

Your child’s issue could be pre-existing and school exacerbates it. Generalized anxiety disorder, as the name indicates it’s a chronic sense of nervousness, worry, doubt, and dread — without any immediate cause. Social anxiety involves a fear of how your child is perceived by their peers at school. For younger children, separation anxiety can lead to issues when you have to drop them off and leave them. 

3. Specific Problems at School

These can range from not fitting in and/or getting bullied to legitimate academic concerns. Whether it is an upcoming test or a disagreeable classmate, your kid can understandably begin dreading their school day.

4. Health Issues

If your child is dealing with an obvious medical condition, it can bring about a feeling of self-consciousness when surrounded by their fellow students. In turn, they feel the illness is a valid — and useful — excuse for wanting to skip school. 

Early Steps You Can Take

As a parent, you can play a significant role in helping your anxious child. 

  • Make sure you’re not causing stress: Your desire to help and motivate your child can end up feeling like pressure. It’s a fine line but find a balance between gently pushing them and giving them room. For children over 10, you can just ask them for input.
  • Ask questions: Resist making assumptions or accusations. Stay open and curious by asking genuine questions about how your kid is feeling and why. Learn as much as you can about their daily school experience so your input can be more helpful.
  • Be open to change: You and the school may take steps to help your child feel more comfortable and safe but you see no positive outcomes. You might need to be open to switching schools or even home-schooling for a while. Remain as flexible — in a practical way.

Get Expert Advice

You, as a parent, may want to consult with a therapist to help you better deal with this situation. But obviously, your child could use some help, too. If any of this sounds familiar, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.