Top Tips for Supporting Your Child Through School Anxiety
Anxiety based school avoidance is a common challenge for children and young people, but prolonged distress can affect both the child and the entire family.
How to help a child with anxiety about school
If your child struggles with school based anxiety, these top tips can help you navigate the situation, understand the root causes, and work collaboratively with the school to make positive changes.
1. Recognise the Signs of School Anxiety
- Difficulty getting up and getting ready for school
- Expressing a reluctance or refusal to attend school
- Worrying excessively about minor issues
- Physical symptoms like stomach aches or headaches
- Changes in sleep patterns or overall mood
2. Identify the Underlying Issues
- Use tools like an anxiety iceberg or mind map to explore your child's concerns.
- Encourage open communication about what specifically is causing anxiety at school.
- Consider external factors like family challenges, bereavement, or being a young carer that may contribute to school-related stress.
3. Initiate a Conversation with the School
- Request a meeting with relevant school personnel, such as the class teacher, tutor group lead, pastoral lead, or SENCO.
- Prepare notes outlining specific challenges your child is facing, and ask if the school has observed any particular difficulties.
- Propose specific changes based on your child's needs or seek suggestions from the school.
4. Formalise Changes with an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
- You may be asking- what is an IEP individual education plan? Schools use IEPs as a planning, teaching and reviewing tool for children and young people with special educational needs.
- Document agreed-upon changes in an Individual Education Plan for consistency across all lessons.
- Follow up with the school through email to confirm the discussed changes.
5. Check in Regularly
- Schedule follow-up meetings to assess the effectiveness of implemented changes.
- Allow time for your child to adapt to new routines or adjustments.
- Be persistent in advocating for your child's needs.
6. Examples of School Changes You Can Request
- If arriving at school is difficult: Request a designated person to assist with the transition into the school environment.
- If things are overwhelming or confusing: Ask for additional support or accommodations, such as a buddy system or simplified instructions.
- If anxiety persists throughout the day: Request access to a quiet space for your child to retreat when feeling overwhelmed.
- If relationships at school are challenging: Seek support in fostering positive connections, such as a mentor or peer buddy system.
7. Maintain a Positive Relationship with the School
- Acknowledge the school's efforts to support your child.
- Work collaboratively to create a positive and supportive environment for your child.
8. Establish a Home Routine
- Create a consistent morning routine or timetable to instil a sense of security.
- Prepare for the next day by organising school materials and clothes the night before.
9. Encourage Relaxation Strategies
- Help your child find strategies to manage anxiety, such as bringing a comfort item to school or using a worry box.
10. Celebrate Small Achievements
- Recognise and praise your child for small successes, fostering a positive outlook.
11. Take the Pressure Off
- Understand that some days may be more challenging than others.
- Allow for flexibility, and remember that mood fluctuates; tomorrow is a new opportunity.
Navigating school anxiety requires patience, communication, and collaboration. By understanding the signs, addressing the underlying issues, and working closely with the school, you can create a supportive environment for your child to thrive academically and emotionally.
SSS Author & Former Headteacher