There are kids who complain about going to school and then there are kids who experience genuine anxiety about going to school. When your child shows signs of school anxiety it may seem like they’re just being stubborn, but for many kids it’s a very real issue. So how can you tell the difference between everyday complaints and the real thing?
What Is School Anxiety?
Only a small percentage (about 10% to 15%) of kids are truly anxious enough to call it school anxiety. Kids in this group experience such profound worry about what may happen at school or about what may happen at home while they are at school that they try avoid school altogether or can’t function well while they are at school.
Signs of School Anxiety
That worry shows up in a variety of ways. A child who has school anxiety may:
- have physical (somatic) symptoms like headaches, stomachaches or vague aches and pains
- experience trouble sleeping and nightmares
- exhibit unusual clinginess/neediness
- cry excessively
- refuse to go school
Some Causes of School Anxiety
Though there are many good teachers out there, sometimes it’s not a good match or your child’s teacher is a bully. Young children spend a lot of time in the classroom and the teacher is sort of a parent stand-in. If a teacher isn’t compassionate about your child's anxiety, it can validate his biggest fears.
2. Performance Anxiety
Circle of Moms member Alison K. advises other moms to “make sure [your child's] not struggling with his school work.” In the age of standardized tests and pushes for no child to be left behind, some kids, especially tweens and teens, are worried they can’t measure up. They are anxious about doing well on tests, don’t want to have to talk in class and generally are concerned about their ability to handle the work.
3. Peer Relationships
Not all kids build and maintain friendships well. Even if they have friends, it can be a lot of work to keep them. This can be exhausting and stressful, causing a lot of anticipatory anxiety.
Other kids are the target of demeaning or just mean behavior at the hands of peers. Worries about being bullied is one of the top causes of school anxiety.
5. Generalized Anxiety
In some cases, your child may be fearful of the world and events that occur worldwide, worrying something will happen while they’re at school. As member Tracy S. points out, though it may be hard for parents to understand, “that IS the definition of anxiety — an irrational belief, feeling, [or] behavior.”
Four Ways to Ease School Anxiety
1. Talk about it without minimizing your child’s feelings.
To your child, these feelings are very real and they need to be able to talk about it and know you’re on their side. Wendy S. said it helped her son to “help come up with solutions,” adding that “when he was part of making the plan, he had more buy-in.”
2. Stay calm and avoid threats or bribery.
As Circle of Moms member Teresa says, “Just be firm (but kind and gentle) and consistent. Don't let her think that not going is an option and don't let her see that it upsets you.”
3. Script and role-play situations.
Having some idea of how to deal with what’s going on can be a big help. In advising another parent, Teresa W. says “[he] may need 'talking through' his school day before he goes to school, walk him through his fears, talk to him about the worse case scenarios.
4. Involve the school.
Mom Hannah W. sees the benefits of getting the teacher on board. “Speak to her teacher and mention to them that she is really upset....maybe they will be able to keep you informed...even ask them if you could speak to her teacher at the end of each week to be able to keep a progress report,” she suggests.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.