How To Navigate Your Child's School Anxiety
Many things make parenting your child challenging: their tendency toward tantrums, picky eating habits, and the messes they leave behind. But perhaps the most challenging aspect of parenting is navigating childhood's emotional ups and downs.
As your child navigates new experiences like learning how to read or talk on the phone, they will inevitably experience some anxiety along the way. And while you undoubtedly want to help your child overcome these feelings of fear or discomfort, there are also ways you can minimize them to avoid unnecessary stress within your family unit — not just now but into adulthood as well!
Some Anxiety Is Healthy, Even Helpful
Anxiety can be a helpful emotion. When we feel anxious about something, we recognize that the situation requires our attention and action. Anxiety can motivate us to do things necessary for our well-being, such as going to school or caring for our health.
When you think of anxiety as being helpful rather than harmful, it’s easier to think about how your child might use their nervous feelings productively. For example, if they are worried about starting middle school next year, they may be thinking about all the new challenges ahead of them and what they need to prepare for to succeed at their new grade level – this is an opportunity for you to help them set goals!
Give Them Time To Process
As a parent, you have to remember that your child needs time to process their anxieties and emotions. This can be hard for you, especially if it feels like the anxiety prevents them from functioning normally.
If your child is experiencing anxiety at school, here are some things you can do:
- Be available for them when they need you. Letting your child know you're there for them will help them feel secure and less alone in their fears.
- Talk about why this is happening now (it could be due to a different teacher or routine) and what steps are being taken next.
- Ask if there are ways that your child would like involved with getting prepared or helping other students feel better too. This may not always work, but it’s worth trying!
Create A Morning Routine
A routine can help your child feel more prepared for the day — a great way to reduce anxiety. Having a schedule that lets them know when they need to get up, be ready for school, and get on the bus or other means of transportation to school will help them feel more in control of their day. This kind of control helps lower stress levels, making the morning less stressful overall!
If you're worried about your child's anxiety because they aren't ready when they need to be (or aren't packed), creating an easy-to-follow routine might help alleviate some pressure on you and your child.
Asking "Have you finished getting dressed?" instead of "Can I help?" will allow them time without feeling rushed while providing support that may be needed later down the road.
Introduce Mindfulness & Relaxation Exercises
It can be helpful to introduce your child to mindfulness and relaxation exercises so they become a part of his or her daily routine. For example:
- Breathing exercises
Visualizing, or imagining a calming scene before school or bedtime, can also help reduce anxiety. Some examples include walking through a forest, floating down a stream in an inner tube on a sunny afternoon, or flying over mountains on an airplane made of clouds!
Relaxation techniques like massage or music therapy might also be options for you and your child if they are open to trying them.
Find A Support System Outside of School
School is the center of most kids' lives, but it's not their only source of support. You can help your child develop friendships in other settings — for example, by encouraging them to join sports teams or attend summer camps where they'll meet kids outside their usual peer group. This will give them new opportunities to practice social skills and build confidence in themselves as they cultivate these relationships.
If your child needs more specialized intervention than what you can provide on your own, find someone who specializes in childhood anxiety disorders like OCD or separation anxiety disorder (SAD). A therapist who's experienced with children can help lead the way through treatment options for your child and provide guidance so that he can start feeling better sooner rather than later!
Separate The Feeling From The Challenge
This is easier said than done, of course. But separating the “feeling” from the "challenge" can help you address your child's worry more effectively.
The challenge is what your child needs to do at school — usually something simple and positive, like asking a question or raising their hand to give an answer. The feeling is how they react to this situation — for example if they feel their voice won't be heard in class or that other kids will laugh at them for being wrong about something.
The feeling is not the problem — it's just one possible reaction when someone confronts their fears head-on (instead of avoiding them).
Don't Take Your Child's Stress As Your Own
As a parent, it's natural to want to help your children with their problems. But in the case of school anxiety, you won't be able to fix it on your own — and sometimes, trying can make things worse.
Don't try to fix the problem by spending all night on Google looking up remedies or schedules and creating a spreadsheet with all of them mapped out for weeks ahead. You may feel like you're doing something productive when you're frantically searching for answers late into the night, but ultimately these actions will only increase your child's stress level by adding more pressure onto both of you and setting unrealistic expectations that will likely lead nowhere.
Instead, seek professional assistance from someone who can help guide and advise rather than just diagnose (e.g., counselors). They'll be able to help identify what needs fixing — and then provide suggestions based on their knowledge and experience rather than yours.
Learn To Deal With Anxiety
It's important to learn to deal with your child's anxieties before they become overwhelming for both of you. The sooner you begin working on ways you and your child can cope with school fears, the better off both of you will be.
It is advisable that parents learn how to help their children overcome anxiety-related problems early in life — otherwise, the problem can become a lifelong struggle with no end in sight.
So, how do we help our kids navigate their school anxiety? It’s a complicated process that will look different for each child. The most important thing is to find the tools that work best for your family and use them consistently. Remember that this is an ongoing process, not something that can be fixed overnight.
About Imperial Healing House
Imperial Healing House is a residential treatment center with a home environment for adolescent females ages 12-18. Our typical students have a history of trauma, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Imperial House is built around pillars of therapeutic support, academic success, tailored nutrition, creative and personal development.