Supporting Your Child With School Anxiety
If you think your child might be anxious about school, here is our advice and information on where you can get help.
How can I help my child?
At any age, children can find going to school difficult. They may be very unwilling to get up, get ready; they may feel sick, or complain of stomach/headaches; they may get angry or upset. The longer it goes on, the more worrying it can be for the child and their parents.
Some children feel anxious about the thought of school when they are at home, but settle down during the school day, while others only display anxiety while at school. This could be because of what’s happening in their environment, such as:
- noisy classes
- unsupervised playgrounds
- problems with friends
- peer pressure to be naughty
Or they may be experiencing learning difficulties such as dyslexia which make them feel like they are no good at school. This can lead to behaviour that says: “it’s better to mess about and have fun rather than be shown up for finding schoolwork difficult”.
Some parents find their children’s distress at going to school so hard to bear they keep them at home, to avoid daily upsets. It may seem like a solution, but doing this will confirm your child’s fears about school and can make the problems much worse. It is really important to address these issues with the school and work together. Here are some things that can really help:
- Tackle it early – the longer anxiety about school persists, the deeper it becomes. Seek professional help from your GP.
- Talk to your child, listen to their fears and respect their feelings. Try out practical strategies that help them to be in control of their anxiety. For example, younger children could try a making a ‘worry box’ where at a certain time each day they write down their worry, post it in the box, close the lid and don't worry any more about it that day. For teens and young adults support them in finding anxiety-reducing activities like sports, a creative hobby or youth club.
- Talk to the school – make them aware of what is going on and agree on strategies to make things easier. This could include things like a flexible start time, a buddy, and regular check-ins on progress.
- You could consider talking to your employer about the situation and whether you need any reasonable adjustments. More and more employers are committing to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.
- Try to reduce your child’s fear of failure and disappointment. Help them to recognise that these happen to everyone and it’s ok. For conversation starters, activities and advice, visit our guide on starting a conversation with your child.
- Make sure their routines are consistent, including time for regular meals, homework, and fun.
Where can I get help?
- Covers state funded education for children aged 5-16 years in England only.
- Comprehensive free info on exclusions, special educational needs, bullying, and more can be found on their website
- Information booklets can also be purchased here
- Advice helpline for parents: 0300 0115 142, Mon-Wed 10:00 -13:00 (term time only)
- Supporting families with disabled children and children with additional needs in England and Wales. Information on EHC plans, SEN support, bullying, exclusions etc.
- Contact has a special educational needs national advice service.
- Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
- Mon-Fri 09:30-17:00
- Email: [email protected]
- Facebook: facebook.com/contactfamilies
- Twitter: @contactfamilies
- Information about dyspraxia and support groups.
- Helpline: 01462 454986, Mon-Fri 09:00-13:00
- Email advice contact form
- Information, support and advice around dyslexia.
- Helpline: 0333 405 4567 Tue 10:00-13:00; Wed & Thu 10:00-15:00
- Email advice contact form
- Freephone helpline 0808 800 4102 Mon-Thu 10:0016:00; Fri 09:00-15:00
- Quick email contact: [email protected]
- Education Rights service: Information, support and advice on educational provision and legal entitlements across UK to help guide parents whose children have autism.
Child Law Advice (from Coram Children's Legal Centre)
- Provides free specialist advice and information to parents, carers and young people on education law in England.
- Phone support service: 0300 330 5485 Mon-Fri 08:00-18:00 (check eligibility details first here)
- Email contact form
- Website also provides a signposting list for callers outside of England.
- Free ‘legally based’ advice regarding education in England and Wales to families who have children with special educational needs .
- Separate helplines for general advice and tribunal support as well as a call back service and online email form, see website for details
- Information and advice on educating your child at home.
- Helpline: 0845 478 6345
- Information, advice and guidance to help young people make decisions on learning, training and work.
- Advice line: 0800 100 900, 08:00 – 22:00, 7 days a week
- Webchat via link on website
- Place2Be provides emotional and therapeutic services in primary and secondary schools, aiming to build children's resilience
- Telephone enquiries: 0207 923 5500
- Email enquiries: [email protected]
Videos for younger children
We teamed up with our friends over at Beano studios to make a series of fun videos for young children to watch about starting a new school, how to make friends and fitting in.