How to Support Children with School Anxiety

Sunday is a day of dread for many parents and kids this time of year. Coming off the weekend, headed into another school week, anxieties amplify. Kids cry, can’t fall asleep, develop nausea and make threats like they’re never going back to school. Parents feel sick, angry and nervous themselves.

In my opinion, there is nothing more futile than trying to make an anxious or scared person NOT be anxious or scared.

But there are some things that seem to help.

  • Technology tends to disrupt the ability to fall asleep. For teens, it can become an addictive way to escape and medicate anxiety. So have a tech off time about an hour before bed. Also figure out your family technology policy.
  • Have consistent bedtime routines and times.
  • Listen. Use reflective listening and allow your child to talk about what they are feeling. DON’T try to correct, fix or talk them out of their feelings. Just ask open ended questions and repeat what you hear. Feelings tend to pass more quickly when they are expressed.
  • Show healthy detachment. Your child’s feelings are not your feelings. Anxiety, fear is just a feeling. By itself, the feeling is not dangerous. It can’t hurt them. Be empathetic but avoid falling apart yourself!
  • If they are school avoidant, don’t let them stay home! The work to get them back to school will often be much more difficult than just keeping them in. Let them know your boundary “School is not optional. I’m only comfortable with you staying home if you have a fever or you’re vomiting.”
  • You can also let them know they can be scared AND go to school. You can have a negative feeling but still behave in the expected manner.

Like everything I share, these are things that I find helpful. They may not fit every child or every family. So just take what fits for you, leave the rest.

I want to encourage all parents to know that you should do what feels comfortable for you in your home with your kids. So if you read lists like this and start to feel guilty, DON’T! If you allow a free reign in technology because that’s what you have to do to get through the week,

You ARE NOT alone! If you don’t have a good bedtime routine, guess what, so do lots of other people. If you let your anxious child stay home, guess what, so have I! Even knowing it’s not “best practice” some days circumstances require something different.

So if you’re struggling and don’t know where to start, try these! If you know these things and you need to do better, ok, great!

If your child’s anxiety seems dangerous, causes symptoms of panic, is constant instead of situational, seeking professional help is a great next step.

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