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Anxiety about going to school

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It is not uncommon for people to experience anxiety at some point in their life. Anxiety about going to school can affect children at any age and the reasons may be different for younger children and teenagers. Parents and caregivers can use a range of strategies to help support their child if they are anxious.

Children can feel anxious about going to school for a range of reasons such as:

  • separation anxiety (being afraid to be away from parents)
  • problems at school such as
    • being bullied
    • not having friends, not fitting in, friendship conflicts
    • feeling lost at school
    • fear of getting into trouble
    • learning difficulties
    • not getting along with a teacher
  • new situations - whether facing the first day in a new grade or the first day in a new school, it's normal to feel nervous in a new situation
  • failure - worry that their schoolwork will be too hard, they won't be able to keep up, or they won't know the correct answer when called on in class
  • fear of losing a parent. They may think something bad will happen to a parent due to
    • a parent being ill
    • family problems and fighting
    • parents separating
    • knowing another child who has lost a parent or whose family has broken up.

Signs of anxiety

Signs of anxiety are different for each individual however they may include:

  • having lots of worries and a strong need for reassurance
  • psychosomatic symptoms which occur before school (e.g. feeling nauseous, shortness of breath or headaches). When the threat (fear of going to school) is taken away, the symptoms will reduce
  • crying, being clingy or fidgeting when nervous
  • sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and trouble sleeping alone
  • fear and avoidance of a range of issues and situations.

More information on anxiety about going to school (PDF, 291KB).

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Last updated 12 July 2019