School Anxiety in Children: 4 Effective Tips to Help Your Kid
- Oct 3, 2022
Shifting from a more relaxed routine to early wake-ups, hours in class, and dreaded homework makes many students feel mildly anxious or cranky during the early weeks of a new school year. For some students, however, school feels so difficult and overwhelming that they experience significant and distressing anxiety around attending school. To relieve this anxiety, a child or teen may begin to avoid school. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 58 million children and adolescents were dealing with anxiety as of 2019. Children with school anxiety syndrome may complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to leave for school or repeatedly ask to visit the school nurse. If the child is allowed to stay home, the symptoms quickly disappear, only to reappear the next morning. In some cases a child may refuse to leave the house. It’s important as parents to watch for these signs in their kids and help them overcome their anxiety.
Here are four tips to help your child overcome school anxiety -
1. Help Identify Issues
Try to find out the reason why your child is avoiding school. Gently ask, “What is making school feel hard?” Is your child struggling socially or being bullied? Is it the fear of academic performance or public speaking? Is it separation anxiety? Encourage them to voice out their reasons behind avoiding school without the fear of judgement.
2. Don’t Allow Fake Sick Leaves
Acknowledge that you understand your child's concerns, but insist on his or her immediate return to school. The longer your child stays home, the more difficult their eventual return will be. Explain that he or she is in good health and his or her physical symptoms are probably due to concerns other things – perhaps about grades, homework, relationships with teachers, anxieties over social pressure or legitimate fears of violence at school. Let your child know that school attendance is required by law. He or she will continue to exert some pressure upon you to stay home, but you must remain determined to get your child back in school.
3. Collaborate with Their Teacher/School
Your child’s school is a key partner in combating school avoidance. Contact the school guidance counselor, psychologist, or social worker to share what you know about why your child is struggling to attend school. The more information the school has about why school avoidance is occurring, the better they will be able to help you. Collaboratively problem-solve with your child and the school by identifying small steps that can help your child gradually face what he is avoiding at school. Let’s say fear about speaking in front of the class is a problem. A child might be permitted to give speeches one-on-one to a teacher, then to his teacher and a few peers, and gradually work up to speaking in front of the class.
4. Help Your Child Be More Connected with School
You might also want to plan ways to help increase your child's sense of belonging to the school. Relationships with teachers and other students are central to feeling a sense of belonging. If your child is having significant difficulties with attending school, one way to assist could be to help them connect more with their teachers or a staff member. For instance, a teacher could greet them at the gate in the morning. They could also give them a special job to do when arriving such as watering a plant or setting up a classroom.
School refusal is not something you can overcome overnight. There are times when you might experience a positive response from your child, but then you may have to face significant setbacks after school vacations or repeated absences due to illness. Recognize your child’s difficulties, communicate openly and honestly about them, show empathy and give your child your unconditional love and support. While you might attempt to handle your child's absence from school on your own. If the issue persists for more than a week, do not hesitate to seek professional help.
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