Helping Your Child Handle School Anxiety

School is back in session and so is school anxiety. Many students are transitioning to in-person schooling still with a mix of virtual learning. They have limited social skills, and they’re scared of the unknown. Can you blame them?

School anxiety from the COVID era was inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable. There are many strategies to ease your child’s worries and make school an enjoyable experience. Read on to learn how to help your child handle school anxiety.

Watch for Signs of School Anxiety

Most children experience some nervousness with school. This may happen on the first day or before an important exam. For some students, those passive worries turn into frequent fears. That’s when you may need to intervene or find coping methods for your child.

Here are some common signs of school anxiety:

  • Complaining of a stomachache or headache every day before school
  • Uncharacteristic emotions, tantrums or outbursts when discussing school or getting ready for school
  • Avoiding homework after repeated reminders
  • Finding ways to miss the bus or delay driving to school
  • Skipping classes or full school days
  • Anxiety attacks

Children with strong communication skills may express they’re anxiety directly. “Mom, I’m scared to go to school.” Use this as an opportunity to start a discussion. Try to get to the root of the anxiety to find a fitting solution. Is your child nervous about a specific subject? Person? Class? Do your best to analyze the cause of the anxiety.

Have Positive Discussions about School (Focus on the Good)

Children model their environment. If you persistently talk about how much you hated school, your child will feed off that. Maintain a positive tone for school discussions. Example: What are you excited to learn about today? Did you turn in that paper I saw you working hard on? When are your choir tryouts?

Conversations won’t always be happy, but you should make the good parts the focus. This emphasizes the benefits of going to school and creates a positive association.

Don’t Use Leading Questions

The way you phrase questions could fuel or simmer your child’s school anxiety. Instead of saying, “Are you worried about your science test?”, you could say, “Do you need help studying for your science test?” The first question suggests there is something to worry about, while the second indicates support. Consider what your phrasing may imply and make adjustments accordingly.

Avoid Rushing in the Morning When Possible

School mornings are hectic for most families. You may not be able to avoid that. If you can though, try to transition smoothly from wake up to breakfast to school. Rushing in the morning creates a mental connection between school and chaos, thereby worsening the anxiety.

Shortly before bed, prepare for the following morning. Set out school clothes. Gather supplies. Meal prep for the next day. Take as much stress off the morning as possible.

Maintain the Same Schedule on Weekends and Weekdays

Children thrive with routine. Keep the same schedule every day, and your child won’t have to transition from weekend mode to school mode. You could adjust bedtime by an hour or so, but try not to deviate too much from routine. This will make school less stressful each Monday.

Listen When They Discuss Their Struggles

Encourage an open line of communication about school anxiety, peer pressure, relationships, hobbies and more. Actively listen when your child mentions fear or frustration. These feelings are valid, and they deserve to be acknowledged.

With this in mind, you should avoid empowering negative feelings. Your child may not want to go to the dentist, but his cavity can’t go untreated. The same applies with school. Express empathy and support without giving in to unrealistic expectations. “I hear that you’re scared, and I’m here to support you. Why don’t we look over your assignment together after dinner?”

Recommend Ways to Overcome Obstacles

You know your child better than anyone else. You watch the day-to-day activities, and you see where they struggle most. Provide solutions to your child’s concerns as much as possible. If they’re struggling in a specific class, you may explore tutoring or extended school education options. If they’re stressed about extracurriculars, suggest ways to lighten the schedule. Each problem has a potential solution.

Use Child Counseling to Equip Your Child with Coping Strategies

Let’s face it – kids don’t always listen to their parents. Your child may turn down every suggestion you have, only to follow the exact same advice from someone else. This is where you can lean into therapy to help the whole family. Through child counseling or family counseling, your child can learn personalized coping strategies for school anxiety.

CNLD Testing & Therapy is proud to support parents, children, caregivers, educators, and everyone in between. Please call (734) 994-9466 to schedule an appointment if you’re interested in confidential anxiety counseling,