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Dealing with School Anxiety

For dealing with anxieties about school performance, many of the techniques for dealing with anxious thoughts are relevant. However, parents might find the following suggestions helpful:

  • Try to stay relaxed yourself. Remember that children develop at different rates, especially in the early years. However, if you are worried about your child's performance at school, be proactive: Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the relevant teacher who will be able to give you accurate feedback and make suggestions for how you can best support your child's learning.
  • Keep the channels of communication with your child open. Be sensitive to periods during which he might feel under pressure, and give him opportunities to talk about his fears. However, also respect the fact that a stressed child might not always want to talk; at times like these, find practical ways to remind him of your love and support. Home baking always worked for me.
  • If your child is overly anxious about performance, work through her catastrophic beliefs about the implications of not doing well at school. Help her challenge negative thoughts that her worth as a person or future prospects hinge entirely or her grades, or that a low mark on a math test means that she will be living in a shop doorway later in life.
  • Don't make your approval dependent upon achievement. By all means, express pride in your child's accomplishments, but focus your praise on the qualities and attitudes that helped him do well: his dedication, his focus, his hard work. Always emphasize the importance of fulfilling personal potential over being the best. Sooner or later, your child will meet someone brighter, faster, and more able.
  • Make an effort to affirm the value of your child's achievements outside of school work. Celebrate his skill on the football field, her soccer skills, his comic timing, the fact that your neighbors now consider her responsible enough to baby-sit for them.
  • Teach your child to see "failure" or low grades as useful feedback and part of an ongoing learning process that will help him develop. Cultivate what Carol Dweck calls a "growth mindset" in which all setbacks are viewed as learning opportunities. Emphasize that ability is not fixed, but can always be developed through practice.
  • Concentrate on developing skills that will enable your child to feel more in control of her own learning. Also help your child organize her schoolwork efficiently so that she can protect periods of free time during which she can relax and "switch off" from the demands of school.
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From How Your Child Thinks Copyright © 2009, FT Press. Used by permission of FT Press, and Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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