Does your child get stomach pains on school day mornings and ask to stay at home?
Are their sleep patterns irregular when they have school the next day?
Do they take so long to get ready in the morning that they can miss the bus?
These are some of the signs that indicate your child is anxious about going to school. Yes the issue can be simply stated in that you son/daughter just doesn’t want to go to school – the question to answer is what is causing that? and also what can be done about it?
Many children encounter school anxiety – particularly at the start of a school year. For many they are about to start a new school. This can be a natural progression up to secondary school from primary; or changing year levels and for some, it is a new school because they have moved home. I have also encountered students who have been asked to leave their previous school due to a negative issue (or issues), some have moved for financial reasons and some have moved to ‘;get a better education’.
Whatever the reason is it stressful – and if the stress isn’t addressed the issue could escalate to the point where your child simply refuses to go to school.
Something must be done.
There are other indicators to look out for – sweaty hands, they begin to talk faster, they spend more time than normal in their room, muscle tension, being irritable and being more forgetful.
They may well be thinking about the new subjects, new teachers, will they be able to make new friends. For some their best friends will be going to a different secondary school and they will be unsure of how they will fit in. It can be tough.
But there are things you can do.
Talk and Listen
Spend some time talking to them about their thoughts and feelings about school – making sure that you actively listen to their replies. Think through a set of questions that you can ask, not in an interrogation but as a way of encouraging them to open up. Some suggestions would be
- what are the good things about school
- what are the bad things about school
- do you like your teachers
- who are your friends at school
You can also talk through with them how they have previously coped with change and how they survived.
Help them to stay calm
Here are four easy to try techniques to help them (and you) stay calm.
Breathing – by taking notice and taking control of your breathing it is possible to reduce anxiety. If you work with your breathing and keep practicing then definite changes will be noticed. You can find out more here.
Exercise – When you have anxiety exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference. It can help you: Gain confidence, take your mind off worries, get more social interaction and cope in a healthy way. Read some more from The Mayo Clinic.
Yoga In many ways, it’s easy to understand why Yoga is regularly advised by doctors for help with anxiety and stress relief. Yoga teaches calmness, a relaxed mind, deep breathing and a focus on inner peace which is exactly the opposite of anxiety symptoms. If you are able to harness the teachings of Yoga and apply them to your daily life, you will be able to successfully use it as an anxiety and stress relief. The calming property of Yoga makes it an excellent option both as a preventive measure and an anxiety and stress relief method in the event of an anxiety attack. With the use of Yoga, people are able to rid themselves of their fear, doubts or depression and instead focus on being peaceful and ultimately happier.
Meditation is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. It has a cumulative effect on the mind and body so the benefits increase over time. Also, it can improve your over all sense of well being Help at home
There are a few small things that can be done at home that can make a big difference. Ensure that they are well fed – eating healthy balanced meals. Ensure that they are getting adequate sleep. You will probably find that it is a good opportunity to review your night and morning routines – find the particular anxious times and see if you can work around them together.
Don’t be afraid to find additional help, we aren’t built to be able to solve every family issue that we face and getting support is not a sign of failure. If anything it is a sign that you care enough to do whatever is necessary. There are many books and websites out there if that is your preferred way of learning. Please feel to contact me directly and either ask a question online or arrange an appointment through skype or face to face – depending on where you live. School will be another source of support – either your child’s home room teacher or the school will have a welfare department or a chaplain. Equally go to your doctor and seek their medical advice. Whatever you do – don’t do it alone.
If your child has been anxious for some time or you can sense a pattern beginning to take shape then it will be a good idea to start an anxiety journal. Keeping an anxiety journal can be a very effective method for anxiety self help.
- Write down the date and the event that caused you anxiety. Then write down what you were thinking just before you felt anxiety creeping up.
- Rank the anxious event on a scale from 1 to 10. This will help you keep track of the things that cause you more or less anxiety. Again, when it is down on paper, it becomes something you can SEE and RESOLVE.
Please respond below with your thoughts and comments and if you have additional tips for parents struggling with this issue.