School anxiety is a problem. How can you help your child?

Has your child stepped out of their routine? Are they more muted than usual? Grades declining? They may be suffering from school anxiety.

According to Black Dog Institute, approximately 14% of 4 to 17-year-olds experience a mental health problem each year in Australia. Increasing pressure from peers, the schooling system and parents means that children may reach a time where they’re unable to cope with what is asked of them. Signs of school anxiety include: 

  • Not wanting to get up and go to school
  • Loss of sleep 
  • Worrying about small things, like the right equipment for lessons
  • Sickness, stomachaches or nausea
  • Angry and upset, or acting out at school or home
  • Withdrawing - seeming low, quiet or depressed

How can you help your child with school anxiety?

1. Be realistic 

To help your child, it’s important to try and empathise with them. School anxiety is just a form of anxiety, which we all feel. It also isn’t a case of ‘won’t’, it is a case of ‘can’t’. Since it is a physiological response to a danger that your child perceives, tough parenting won’t work as it isn’t rooted in conscious behaviour. 

What your child needs most in this difficult time is understanding and someone to listen to them. Practise active listening skills, and show empathy for their experiences. You may also choose to share a time when you struggled with anxiety in life. Just imagine if your parents shared that they understand your current struggle. Wouldn’t you feel comforted?

2. Empower your child

Empower your child’s sense of control, not their fears. Do this by making sure your child sleeps on time, have their 3 meals a day and minimising stressors at home. Make sure to express positive but realistic expectations. For example, don’t promise them that the test won’t be hard, or that no one will laugh at them at school. Instead, express confidence in their ability to control things (e.g. I know you’ll be okay, You’ll be able to manage it, As you face those fears more, you’ll get less anxious over time). 

Don’t feed into your child’s fears or become a stressor for them by pushing them even harder (For example, saying “Maybe this IS something you should be afraid of”). For children who lack a sense of control, making yourself a safe space is one of the best things a parent can do. 

3. Model healthy behaviour

It’s no surprise that children copy us parents. From our mannerisms, to our traits, to the way we manage our anxiety. Reflect on how you deal with anxiety within the household, and whether it has a positive effect on your children. A child who sees their parents complain non-stop about their anxiety after a day at school is going to fare much worse than one who sees their parents managing it calmly and tolerating it even despite the anxiety. We all want someone to look up to, so let your child have the privilege of looking up to someone who deals with stress realistically and calmly. 

Want to help your child find a routine in their studies? Reach out to Concept - we're always happy to help!

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