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Anxiety at secondary school

School can be a stressful place, so it’s no wonder your teen might be worried sometimes about going in. Talk to their teacher if their anxieties are stopping them attending. 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 teen is:

  • moody, feeling angry or crying over small things
  • avoiding or refusing to study
  • wanting to stay away from friends or family
  • asking to stay home from school
  • complaining of stomach aches and headaches
  • saying negative things about themselves
  • having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Talk your teen’s school about any problems you are facing. Working together to find solutions for your child is the best way to support them. Listening to your child’s thoughts and feelings when drawing up the new plan is key. Your school can help your child by providing:

  • a sense of belonging for your teen in school. It’s important that your child feels like a valued member of the school community, maybe by giving them an important job or role at school.
  • a key adult at school who can be there to consistently support them. It could be an adult who has the same interest, or something in common, with your child.
  • a unique and 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 teen if they are struggling with anxiety at school

Caucasian teenager girl sitting at table and doing homeworkLet them know it’s okay to ask for support. This will help them learn how to be resilient and deal with this and other challenges they might face as they get older.

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.

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 make sure your teen 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.
  • 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.

Setting realistic goals

Discuss realistic expectations with your teen and their teacher. Talk about where your teen does well and where they need support. Including them means they’ll feel motivated to make any changes needed. Help them find their inspiration. Loving african american foster care parent single mother embrace teen daughter. Giving support and protection, black mom hug teenage girl, family kindness concept,Talk with your teen about the reasons why they want to do their best to help motivate them. It’s important to give them positive praise and encouragement for all the day-to-day things they’re doing because exams are not everything. Let them know how special they are, and how proud you are of them for everything they do, regardless of exam results.

Exam anxiety

Exams can be a challenging part of school life for teens and their families.

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

Worrying about exams doesn’t mean your teen 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.

Tips to making revision work at home

  • Be flexible about responsibilities they might have. Don’t worry about untidy bedrooms or chores left undone.
  • Make sure they have a comfortable place to study.
  • 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.
  • Help your child get organised to limit stress. Build in down-time and breaks; relaxation is important too.
  • Get started early. It makes sense to start at the beginning of the day so they have their ‘down time’ to look forward to.
  • Setting reasonable goals will help motivate your child but be careful not to overwhelm them. They’ll feel a great sense of achievement when they have completed the day’s plan.
  • Amend plans as you go. See what is working well, or not so well, and amend accordingly.

Managing exam results

Here are some tips to keep calm leading up to and on results day itself.

  • Plan for the day including where you will get the result, what time and with whom. Depending on the results, your young person might need to look into clearing or resits and knowing what options are available can help if things don’t quite go to plan.
  • Help your young person notice and manage their stress levels.
  • Talk about it. Sharing worries with someone who has been through it can help give them insight and perspective.
  • Be there for others. Lots of their friends will be in the same boat and reassuring them and planning their results might help your young people discover ways they can help themselves too.
  • Try not to compare to other young people. We are all different, success comes in different ways and exam results do not define a person.

When to get help

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: