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Anxiety and school life: Helping your child manage their anxiety.

Your child's school days could be the happiest time of their lives. Learning and trying new things, making new friends, and developing a sense of independence. However, those opportunities can also have the opposite effect and be highly anxiety inducing.

School based anxiety could develop from your child experiencing social anxiety, issues with bullying, low self-esteem, separation anxiety from their parent, or a general anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety is a fear of what others might think of you. That perceived negative judgement can often prevent your child from engaging in lessons, putting their hand up, avoiding large groups activities, and finding it hard to make new friends. You may have heard them saying “No one will like me.” “They will laugh at me if I do that.” “I won’t know what to say.”

Bullying can be a parents’ worst nightmare. How do you protect your child when they are not with you? All schools should have a policy on how to handle incidents of bullying which gives a process to follow. Working with a school family worker, or parent-led therapist can help explore steps you can take at home to support your child to build their confidence.

Separation anxiety can present when they are starting school for the first time, or anytime there is a significant life event at home, where your child fears what might happen to their parent while they are separated.

A general anxiety disorder is where a child or adult finds they often worry about lots of different things. Anxiety is a completely natural emotion to have, it keeps us safe from real dangers. Heightened anxiety however, is thought to result from either inherited or learned behaviour in managing a perceived threat.

How you can help today

· As a parent, you are in a unique position to provide support for your child in overcoming their anxiety.

· Understanding and managing your own emotions: You are a role model for your child, they will look to you to see how you manage your emotions. What has helped you, or someone you know, when an emotion is overwhelming? Becoming more aware of your own emotions and learning strategies to manage, helps you to ride that emotional storm so you are more able to support those around you.

· Listening and validating: Encourage them to share with you their own story of worry thoughts. Their worries may seem irrational but to them it would seem very real, and very scary

· By listening to their story, you will be able to better understand the worry, and they will be comforted that you have just listened. Comments like “Don’t worry” and “It’s not that bad” or “You’ll be fine” can dismiss what your child is feeling and gives them little space to explore. Instead, naming emotions helps your child identify what is it they are feeling. It confirms that their experience and emotions are valid and normal. You can further reinforce and reassure by saying something like “Many children feel scared/ angry/ sad in this situation.”

· If they are not ready to talk then simply remind them that you are here to listen and help find a solution when they are ready, or you could ask if there is anyone else they would like to talk to. It can sometimes help to talk on a walk, or when you are together on a car journey.

· Problem solving: If you get a chance to talk then begin by listing all possible solutions together, even the silly ones. This helps to look at the bigger picture and what options there are. It enables you to choose a realistic and achievable solution and have a go. Planning and making small steps forward can build their confidence, especially if you can recognise small achievements. Finding ways to increase their independence will also empower them, build their resilience and sense of self.

What is Parent-led CBT?

· Parent-led CBT is an opportunity to work with a therapist to explore what maintains your child’s fear and anxiety. Strategies and tools can then be introduced to break that negative cycle.

· As a parent you are able to continue the work after therapy has finished, implementing the tools to maintain progress, and manage any potential future setbacks. The process of working with a therapist supports you in helping your child understand and manage their worries and fears.

If you would like to know more about Parent-led CBT, you can contact me either by using the form on my homepage, or email me at

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