How do I help my child feel less nervous about studying and school?
Here are some steps you can take If you are noticing your child is having a lot of difficulty with school.
- Ground your thinking and heart.
- Take a minute (or 3) to frame your thinking so your next steps support them and a healthy relationship.
- Recognize learning difficulties might present as:
- Consistently refusing academic work. .
- Low motivation or not wanting to go to school.
- Perfectionism or fear of making mistakes.
- Anxiety or feeling very worried about school performance.
- Difficulty concentrating or sitting still.
- Settle with the child: Create a calm, quiet environment where you can simply be together.
- Try a 2 for 2 first step. Sit together in space for two minutes with your child. Let them know you’ll wait until they are ready to start.
- Stay beside them until they are ready – it may take longer or go more quickly – both are okay!
- Listen: This is reflection vs action: you are simply listening and there’s no need to offer a fix.
- I’ve noticed you are [school related behavior], can you tell me more about that?
- What do you like about school? What do you dislike about it?
- What is the easiest part of school? What is the hardest part?
- Affirm: Be sure your child knows you’ve heard their feelings and that you are there to support and help.
- I hear that you are feeling like [their word].
- This must be hard. How about if we make a plan to help you start to feel better?
- Talk with your child’s teacher(s) and ask for their observation.
- You might consider checking where they sit and whether they could have audio or visual difficulties that contribute to the anxiety or challenges.
- If you believe your child is having difficulty because of a learning disability, you can request an evaluation from their school.
- If it is determined your child qualifies for services, you and the team will create an IEP (individualized education plan).
- If your child does not qualify for special education services, you may still request a 504 plan to allow accommodations (see more below).
Tips for kids with learning anxiety
It is natural for all students to struggle from time to time in school. There are lots of things you can do at home to support your child.
If you are concerned that there is something else going on, don’t hesitate to ask for help from other professionals.
Assess. Talk with their teacher, pediatrician or other professionals to rule out any learning disability that might be contributing to their difficulty.
Understand your child’s strengths. All children have different ways that they learn. Use their interests and strengths to get them excited about learning.
- Watch videos about what they are learning.
- Listen to songs or audiobooks.
- Involve hands-on activities like experiments.
- Incorporate learning into daily life:
- Cooking, for working with fractions and measuring
- Grocery Shopping, involves reading and math
- Reading a map or street signs
- Spending time outside, science
- Praise Effort over Achievements. Students do better when they feel they can get better with practice. Notice when your child is trying and normalizing making mistakes as you learn.
- Practice relaxation techniques. If your child gets nervous before a test or project, you can teach them some relaxation techniques to help calm their mind.
- Deep breathing- breathe in for 4, hold for 5 and release for 7. Repeat until they feel calm.
- Affirmations- create an affirmation with your child that helps boost their confidence.
- Ask your child to tell you about a time they felt really proud of themself.
- Ask them to describe in detail what happened and how they felt.
- Pretend to bottle up that feeling of being proud and bring it with them to school
- Have them visualize that feeling before taking the test.
Can I Get Support for My Child in the Classroom?
- If your child is struggling you can request a formal evaluation to determine if special education services would be helpful.
- If your child does not need special education but has a physical or mental health condition you can request a 504 plan.
- This will allow your child to have accommodations in the classroom.
- Some mental health conditions that qualify for a 504 plan:
- A 504 plan is created by parents, teachers and other support staff (Occupational therapist, speech therapist, mental health counselor, etc.)
- Some accommodations that can be on a 504 plan:
- Extended testing time
- Fidget or sensory toys
- Behavioral support
- Visual aides
- Taking breaks
Children’s Books about Learning Differences
- A Walk in the Words by Hudson Talbott
- Brillant Bea: A Story for Kids with Dyslexia and Learning Differences by Shaina Rudolph and Mary Vukadinovich
- The Book of Mistakes by Corrina Luyken