How To Help A Child Who Is Afraid To Go To School

We may think the summer is long and that our kids are raring to get back to school to chat and play with their friends. But for some kids, returning to school can be an anxious and upsetting time of the year.

We’ve packed the lunchbox, labelled the jumpers, and taken out the big coat in case the weather suddenly turns, but have we checked in with our kids about how they feel about the return to school? Can we pick up on the cues of an anxious child? And how can we help a child who is afraid to go to school?

If your child is showing anxiety, stress, or upset at the thoughts of returning to school or panics as you walk out the door to head to school, they may get upset, show anxious tendencies such as nail biting, being angry and rebel, exhibit changes in appetite, avoid conversations about school and friends, feel sick or have headaches. Young kids are often unable to vocalise how they feel, which means we must be conscious of changes in behaviour that may indicate anxiety, worry, or fear.

The Distraction Method

Distraction can often be key to helping your child face their fears. If the feelings surrounding school are abstract such as separation anxiety or fear of the unknown, and can’t be pinned to trauma or challenges within the school environment, distraction can help. Young children may react well to something like stories or music on the way to school. This method relaxes our thought patterns away from the negative spiral we may get stuck in and help with the transition from one environment to another.

Use Reminders

To help build your child’s self-esteem and confidence, use daily reminders to show them that you are with them when they are in school. Simple methods such as drawing a heart on your hand and theirs, or placing notes in their lunch box, can help build self-worth, compassion and understanding.

Talk To The Teacher

If the anxiety or worry continues to be an issue and has the potential to increase, speak to your child’s teacher who will help to pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from and help manage it.

Mental Health Days

School can be overwhelming, especially for a child who finds school a challenge with anxiety. Remember that mental health days are as important as days when we keep the kids home from school for a high temperature. Schedule mental health days and encourage your child to take time to refresh.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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