Returning To School With Anxiety

Helping Your Anxious Child Thrive: Practical Tips for Returning to School with Confidence

Is your child feeling anxious about going back to school?

As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to see your child struggle with anxiety. The good news is that there are practical tips and strategies you can use to help your child thrive and approach the new school year with confidence. This article will explore practical ways to support your anxious child in navigating the challenges of returning to school. 

It's important to remember that every child's anxiety manifests differently. Some may experience separation anxiety, while others may have social anxiety or specific fears related to school. We will cover a range of topics to address various anxiety triggers, empowering you with tools and techniques to create a supportive environment for your child.

By understanding your child's anxiety and implementing these strategies, you can help them face their fears and develop crucial coping mechanisms for a successful school year. Let's dive in and discover how you can support your anxious child as they thrive in the classroom.

Understanding Childhood Anxiety

Childhood anxiety is more common than you might think. According to a 2013-14 Australian national survey, almost 7% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have experienced clinical anxiety within the last 12 months. Understanding the nature of childhood anxiety is the first step in supporting your child.

Anxiety can manifest through various symptoms, such as excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches. It's essential to recognise that anxiety is not something your child can easily control or overcome on their own. By acknowledging their feelings and providing a safe space for expression, you can help validate their experiences. For more, see our blog on anxiety disorder. 

The Impact of Anxiety on School Performance

Anxiety can significantly impact a child's academic performance and overall well-being. When children experience anxiety about school, they may struggle with focusing, participating in class, and completing assignments, leading to a decline in grades and a loss of confidence in their abilities.

Additionally, anxiety can affect a child's social interactions, making it challenging for them to make friends or participate in group activities. The fear of judgment or criticism can isolate them and hinder their social development. Understanding the potential consequences of anxiety on your child's school performance can motivate you to take proactive steps in supporting them.

Identifying Anxiety in Your Child

Signs That Your Child May Be Struggling with Anxiety About Returning to School

As a parent, it's essential to be aware of the signs that indicate your child may be struggling with anxiety about returning to school. While every child is different, some common signs include:

  1. Changes in behaviour: Noticeable shifts in your child's behaviour, such as increased irritability, mood swings, or withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed.
  2. Physical manifestations: This could include reports of headaches, stomach pains, and other physical discomforts without an apparent medical reason.
  3. Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, or waking up feeling tired.
  4. Avoidance behaviours: Your child strongly desires to avoid school-related activities, such as attending school events, going on field trips, or participating in class discussions.
  5. Excessive worry: Constantly expressing worries or asking repetitive questions about school-related matters.

If you observe these signs in your child, it's crucial to take them seriously and provide the necessary support to address their anxiety.

What You Can Do to Help Your Anxious Child

Building a Supportive Home Environment

Creating a supportive home environment is vital to helping your anxious child thrive. Start by fostering open lines of communication, allowing your child to express their fears and concerns without judgment. Create a safe space by encouraging them to share their thoughts and actively listen to what they say. Avoid dismissing their worries or telling them to "just relax." Instead, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that their emotions are valid. By acknowledging their anxiety, you can help them feel less alone in their struggles.

In addition, consider implementing relaxation techniques at home to help your child manage their anxiety. These activities could include deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, or mindfulness exercises. These practices can help your child calm their mind and body, reducing the intensity of their anxiety symptoms.

Communicating with Your Child's School

Open and effective communication with your child's school is crucial in supporting their anxiety. Reach out to your child's teacher(s) or school counsellor to discuss your concerns and provide them with information about your child's anxiety. Sharing insights about your child's triggers and coping mechanisms can help the school better understand and support your child's needs.

Collaborate with the school to develop an ILP (Individual Learning Plan) accommodating your child's anxiety. This plan may include providing a quiet break space, allowing extra time for assignments or tests, or implementing a buddy system to ease social interactions. Regular check-ins with the school can help monitor your child's progress and adapt the plan to best meet your child's needs. 

It's important to remember that teachers and school staff are often willing to work with parents to support anxious students. By building a solid partnership with the school, you can create a comprehensive support system for your child.

Integrating Comfort through Compression Clothing

Incorporating compression clothing into your child's wardrobe is another supportive strategy to help manage their anxiety. Compression garments, such as JettProof singlets, can provide a gentle, reassuring pressure that mimics a therapeutic technique known as deep pressure stimulation. This sensation is similar to a firm hug and can be calming, alleviating anxiety and increasing feelings of security. The comforting pressure from compression clothing can help your child feel more collected and less overwhelmed in stressful situations, whether at home, in school, or a social setting. Your child can wear JettProof singlets 24/7 under regular clothing. This strategy and other supportive measures can be a valuable part of your child's anxiety management toolkit, fostering a sense of calm and resilience in facing daily challenges.

Establishing a Routine and Structure

Children thrive on routine and structure, especially when dealing with anxiety. Establishing a consistent daily routine can give your child a sense of predictability and stability, easing their anxiety about the unknowns of each school day.

Create a schedule that includes designated times for waking up, getting ready for school, homework, playtime, and relaxation. Involve your child in creating the routine, allowing them to have some control over their day. This schedule can help them feel empowered and more at ease with the upcoming school year.

Additionally, ensure that your child gets enough sleep each night. A well-rested child is better equipped to manage anxiety and handle the demands of the school day. Set a regular bedtime and create a calming night-time routine to help your child wind down before sleep.

Teaching Your Child Coping Skills for Managing Anxiety

Equipping your child with coping skills is essential for managing anxiety inside and outside the classroom. Teach your child techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or positive self-talk. When practised at home, your child can adapt these coping techniques to manage stressful situations at school.

Encourage your child to engage in activities that promote relaxation and self-care. These activities may include hobbies such as drawing, listening to music, reading, or spending time in nature. Your child can redirect their focus and reduce anxiety by engaging in activities they enjoy.

Additionally, teach your child problem-solving skills to help them navigate challenging situations. Role-play scenarios they may encounter at school and brainstorm possible solutions together. Helping your child develop problem-solving skills empowers them to face their fears and overcome obstacles.

What To Do When You Need More Help

Seeking Professional Help and Therapy Options

Anxiety can be overwhelming for both children and parents. If your child's anxiety is interfering with their daily life and functioning, seeking professional help is essential. A licensed mental health professional, such as a child psychologist or therapist, can provide the necessary guidance and support to help your child manage their anxiety.

Therapy options for anxious children may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), play therapy, or exposure therapy. CBT is particularly effective in helping children identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop healthy coping strategies. Play therapy allows children to express their feelings and concerns through play, while exposure therapy gradually exposes them to anxiety-provoking situations in a controlled environment.

Involving your child in the decision-making process when seeking therapy is ideal. Let them know therapy is a safe space to discuss their worries and fears. Encourage open communication and reassure them that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. By involving your child in the process, they will feel empowered and more likely to engage in therapy wholeheartedly.

Remember that therapy is not a quick fix but a journey. It may take time for your child to see progress, so be patient and supportive throughout the process. Regular check-ins with the therapist can help you understand your child's progress and adjust strategies accordingly. Therapy and other supportive measures can significantly improve your child's ability to thrive in school.

Connecting with Other Parents and Support Groups

Navigating your child's anxiety can feel isolating, but you are not alone. Connecting with other parents with similar experiences can provide a sense of community and valuable support. Seek out local parent support groups or online communities dedicated to supporting parents of anxious children. These groups can be a source of empathy, advice, and practical tips from parents who have been through similar challenges.

When connecting with other parents, it's important to remember that every child's anxiety is unique. Avoid comparing your child's progress or experiences to others. Instead, focus on sharing strategies, coping mechanisms, and success stories. Hearing about other children's progress can offer hope and inspiration and remind you that your child's future is full of possibilities. 

Useful Resources 

Parent and Kids helpline: The Kids Helpline offers support for both kids and their parents in navigating anxiety issues.

Headspace: Headspace is Australia's National Youth Mental Health Foundation, providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25-year-olds.

Be you: Part of the Beyond Blue network, Be You aims to transform Australia's approach to supporting children's and young people's mental health. 

Lifeline: A national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

The Final tips for supporting your child

Helping your anxious child thrive involves celebrating their progress, no matter how small. Anxiety can make everyday tasks seem daunting, so acknowledge and praise your child for their efforts. Encourage and support their accomplishments, no matter how seemingly insignificant. This positive reinforcement builds their confidence and resilience, empowering them to face new challenges.

Create a system of rewards or incentives that motivates your child to face their anxiety triggers. For example, if your child is anxious about speaking up in class, set achievable goals such as raising their hand to answer a question once a day. When they accomplish this goal, reward them with something they enjoy, such as a small treat or extra playtime, reinforcing their bravery and encouraging them to continue pushing through their anxiety.

Remind your child that setbacks are a normal part of life. Please encourage them to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. Help them develop problem-solving skills by brainstorming alternative solutions and strategies. By fostering resilience, you equip your child with the tools to bounce back from setbacks and continue their journey towards thriving in school.

The journey may have its ups and downs, but with love, support, and dedication, your child can approach each school day with greater confidence and a toolkit ready to tackle whatever comes their way. Here's to a year of growth, learning, and thriving, both for your child and for you, as you navigate this path together.

The content on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice or treatment. While we aim to provide accurate information and personal insights to support our valued customers and community, we strongly advise consulting with a Doctor, Psychologist or other qualified medical professionals.


The Mental Health Of Children and Adolescents

Individual Learning Plan Guide NSW

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) - Better Health Channel

JettProof Sensory Clothing For Children and Adults

How to Accurately Fit a JettProof Singlet