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Anxiety at primary school

Sad little child, boy, hugging his mother at homeSchool can be stressful, so it’s no wonder your child might be worried sometimes about going in. It’s important to support your child to recognise when they are feeling anxious, and to help them manage these feelings.

You might notice your child is:

  • moody or getting upset or angry over small things
  • avoiding or refusing to go to school
  • complaining of stomach aches or headaches
  • saying negative things about themselves
  • having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Talk your child’s school about any problems you are facing and work together to find solutions. Your school can help provide: 

  • a sense of belonging for your child in school by giving them a role or job at school to help them feel like a valued member of the school community
  • a key adult at school who can be there to consistently support them
  • a flexible approach on attendance that can be agreed in partnership with your child.

What to do if you think your child is being bullied

Hearing your child is being bullied is upsetting but it’s very important to stay calm and actively listen to your child. Visit our ‘bullying’ page for more advice and support.

How to help your child if they are struggling with anxiety at school

Let them know it’s okay to ask for support. This will help them learn how to deal with this and other challenges they might face as they get older.

Encourage your child to talk about their feelings

  • Take time to listen to, and understand, what your child is saying. This will help your child understand their feelings are important to you.
  • Show them how you express your feelings, so they can see it is normal to do so.
  • Give positive praise for attending school.

Build self-confidence

  • Smile and connect with your child to help them feel secure.

Create routines

  • Keep to a routine and try to make sure your child goes to school regularly.
  • After-school clubs are a positive source of engagement for your child. Try and find one that resonates with their own interests, or encourage them to try something new.
  • Routines at home for bedtime, daytime and meal times are really important. Take a look at our sections keeping your child healthy.
  • Give your child permission to take ‘time out’ so they can be in their own space. Time to decompress should help them calm down and feel less anxious.

Working at home

  • Make sure they have a comfortable place to do their homework.
  • Find out your child’s learning style to help them study more effectively. Some people prefer pictures and diagrams while others like to learn more through discussion.

Test anxiety

It’s natural for children to feel some stress around tests, and this can be especially true for those children who have anxiety, are neurodivergent or have a learning disability, who may feel less confident in school.

Worrying about tests doesn’t mean your child has anxiety but it can still take a toll on their well-being and possibly lead them to not perform as well as they could or dread going into school.

Let them know you’ll be proud of them however they do in school. When children don’t do as well as they hoped, they may feel it’s the worst thing that could happen or they’ve let you down. Learning is a lifelong process, and some people pick things up quickly while for others, it’s an uphill climb.

Set realistic goals

Discuss realistic expectations with your child and their teacher. Talk about where your child does well and where they need support. Help your child find their motivation to do their best. It’s important to give them positive praise and encouragement for all the day-to-day things they’re doing – test results aren’t everything. Let them know how special they are, and how proud you are of them for everything they do.

For families who might need further support 

If your child’s anxiety or low mood starts to interfere with their everyday life talk to your GP or contact the School Health Team. We really want to hear from you if you if you feel you need more support for you and your child.

Useful resources