School Anxiety: What It Is and How to Manage It

Going back to school can be an exciting time for some students, but for others, it can cause a significant amount of anxiety. School anxiety is a common problem that affects many school-aged children. It can manifest itself in different ways, including panic attacks, irritability, avoidance behavior, and physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches. In this article, we will discuss what school anxiety is, its causes, and ways to manage it.

What is School Anxiety?

School anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that affects children and teenagers. It occurs when a child experiences intense fear or worry about going to school. This anxiety can be triggered by a variety of things, such as social interaction, academic work, bullying, or separation from parents.

School anxiety can be a problem for children of all ages, but it is more common in students who are transitioning to a new school or grade level. It can also occur during significant life changes, such as moving to a new city or experiencing a family separation.

Signs and Symptoms

School anxiety can manifest itself in several ways, and every child experiences it differently. Here are some common signs and symptoms of school anxiety:

  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to sleep
  • Stomach aches and headaches
  • Avoidance of school or social situations
  • Irritability and mood swings

Some children may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, or dizziness. Others may experience self-doubt or a lack of confidence in their abilities. School anxiety can also affect a child’s academic performance, causing them to struggle with completing homework, managing their time, and achieving good grades.

Causes of School Anxiety

School anxiety can be caused by several factors, and it is often a combination of these factors that contribute to a child’s anxiety. Some common causes of school anxiety include:

  • Academic pressure: When a child feels overwhelmed by academic work, exams, and grades.
  • Social pressure: When a child has difficulty making friends or fitting in with peers.
  • Bullying: When a child is being bullied or teased by other students.
  • Family stress: When a child is facing significant family problems, such as a divorce or death of a loved one.
  • Separation anxiety: When a child experiences anxiety when separating from their parents.

Managing School Anxiety

Managing school anxiety involves a multi-faceted approach that combines different strategies to help the child feel more comfortable and confident at school. Here are some ways to manage school anxiety:

Create a Calming Routine

Establishing a calming routine can help a child with school anxiety feel more prepared for the day. This routine may involve a healthy breakfast, mindfulness exercises, or other activities that promote relaxation.

Talk to the School

Parents should speak with the child’s school about their anxiety and work together to find ways to manage it. Schools often have resources like counselors and psychologists who can help.

Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Parents can help their child reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. This can be done through positive affirmations or discussing the positive aspects of the school day.

Help Them Practice Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization can help a child manage their anxiety. Parents can teach their child these techniques and encourage them to practice when they feel anxious.

Build Healthy Habits

Healthy habits such as regular exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet can help children manage their anxiety. Parents should encourage their child to maintain these habits to promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce anxiety.

When to Seek Professional Help

If a child’s school anxiety persists or worsens, despite attempts at managing it, it may be necessary to seek help from a mental health professional. A mental health professional can evaluate the child’s anxiety and provide treatment options such as therapy or medication.

Conclusion

School anxiety is a common problem that can be challenging for children and parents to manage. However, with the right approach, it is possible to help ease a child’s anxiety and promote a healthy school experience. With a combination of healthy habits, mindfulness techniques, and additional support from the school and a mental health professional if necessary, children can overcome school anxiety and enjoy their time at school.

FAQs

What is school anxiety?

School anxiety, also known as school refusal, is a common condition where a child experiences intense fear or worry about attending school. This can manifest as physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches, emotional symptoms such as excessive crying or irritability, or behaviour problems such as tantrums or aggression.

What are the causes of school anxiety?

School anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, academic pressure, bullying, or traumatic events. It is important to identify the underlying cause of the anxiety so that appropriate interventions can be implemented to support the child’s well-being and academic success.

How can school anxiety be treated?

Treatment for school anxiety may include counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy, or medication. It is important to involve parents, teachers, and other professionals in the child’s treatment plan to ensure a collaborative and holistic approach. Additionally, schools can implement strategies such as providing a safe and supportive learning environment, addressing the child’s academic and social needs, and promoting positive mental health practices.


References

1. McLeod, B. D., Wood, J. J., & Weisz, J. R. (2007). Examining the association between anxiety and depression and school-based functioning. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(4), 325-342. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-006-9090-4

2. Rapee, R. M., & Heimberg, R. G. (1997). A cognitive-behavioral model of anxiety in social phobia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35(8), 741-756. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796797000586

3. Turner, S. M., Beidel, D. C., & Costello, A. (1987). Psychopathology in the offspring of anxiety disorders patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55(2), 229-235. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-16031-001