How To Help Your Child When They Are Experiencing Anxiety Over School

Identifying your children’s important feelings can be tricky. After all, they’re kids and haven’t wrestled with something like emotional regulation. But when it comes to anxiety related to school, there are some known red flags to watch for. As I’ve written about recently, your child may be hesitant to socialize or participate, struggle with academic work, or present with physical symptoms like digestive disruptions.

Younger children may throw temper tantrums and refuse to get ready for school. Adolescents and teens can take things further with truancy and self-harm. Any parent must stay aware and learn as much as possible about this problem.

Why Are Children Anxious About School?

Mental Health Concerns: These can be connected to trauma (past or present) — especially if something very negative has happened at their school. Also, of course, your child’s anxiety can point to an anxiety disorder. Quite often, the disorder already exists, and school serves to worsen the symptoms. 

Physical Health Concerns: Children dealing with an illness or disability may have to cope with consciousness around their fellow students.

More Obvious Issues at School: Commonly, such issues could be based on not fitting in, getting bullied, or feeling bad about their academic performance

Understanding at least some of the underlying roots is incredibly helpful when it comes to helping your child. Keep the lines of communication open and do your best to be present and validating when they share their worries with you. Ask lots of questions and stay open to learning. 

How To Help Your Child When They Are Experiencing Anxiety Over School

When you see your child struggling, you may kick right into fix-it mode. However, anxiety is a normal — and often needed — emotion. So, you’re not aiming to delete it. Rather, you want to play a role in helping your child manage anxiety in a healthy manner. Here are some tips for parents like you:

Set Realistic Expectations

Let’s face it, some of your child’s fears could come true. They could encounter a bully or fail a big test. This presents the opportunity for you to teach them about managing stress and being resilient. Life will sometimes be quite a roller coaster but with productive coping skills, you can navigate the challenges. Set your expectations based on reality, not on a fairy tale slaying-the-dragon gesture.

Don’t Empower the Anxiety

If gym class feels scary to your third grader, the goal isn’t to get them out of the class for the year. Again, this is a teaching moment. We don’t get to avoid what makes us uncomfortable. But, with support and practice, that discomfort can lessen until it no longer presents itself as an obstacle. 

Make Sure You’re Not Causing Stress

Your reaction to their fear influences how they perceive the situation. Even if you feel stressed inside, stay calm and solution-oriented. Without meaning it, you can reinforce their nervousness by expressing your own fear either verbally or non-verbally. You’re constantly sending messages as a parent so stay vigilant. For example, if your teen is worried about a big exam, it does not help to ask them if they’re nervous or scared. Opt instead to go with something like, “How are you feeling about the upcoming test?”

If Necessary, Step in and Make a Change

There are cases when a child doesn’t match up with a certain school. Stay flexible enough to recognize if it’s reached the point where you need to switch schools or try home-schooling for a while. This is obviously not your first choice but stay open. If you need help with an anxious child, reach out to learn more about child therapy.

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