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Many young people are anxious about attending school from time to time.
This is normal. Anxieties are part of life. Learning to face up to them is part of growing up.
If you are worried about going to school...
Explain your worries to your parents if possible. They can help you, in partnership with your school. You can talk to a member of staff if you wish.
As a first step, your parents should contact your school to discuss any concerns you may have.
There is also a School Anxiety Service which can offer advice in difficult situations and we can be contacted via your school or by telephoning: 0116 3055100
Although you may be worried, keep trying and don’t give up.
It is important to know that if you keep trying, over time the anxiety will reduce.
You may need to learn some new strategies. Here are some ideas that young people have found helpful:
Visualise or think about positive calm experiences.
Taking Regular Exercise
Get involved with sports and physical activities: walking, run-ning, swimming, or joining a team sport such as football or net-ball are all useful to help control anxiety. Other forms of exer-cise such as Tai Chi and Yoga can have particularly beneficial effects on managing feelings.
Positive Changes to your Routine
Make time for activities that you enjoy.
Gradually face the situation by taking small steps, one at a time.
Talk and think about the things you do well.
Socialise and keep in touch with your friends.
Plan what you want to do and make time to organise yourself for school.
Get enough sleep.
Aim to have calm morning. Allow plenty of time for an unhurried start.
Remember that it is important to take some responsibility for helping yourself. Any skills you learn will also help you in adult life.
Many children and young people are anxious about attending school at some stage. This is normal. Anxieties are part of life and learn-ing to face up to them is part of growing up.
If your child seems anxious about school, the first step should be to talk to school staff about the problem. Advice and support is available from school. It is important that you make an appointment to talk with your child’s teachers as soon as possible.
Separation anxiety or school anxiety can develop despite parental encouragement and support. A child might be fearful, withdrawn, tearful, or have physical symptoms, such as stomach-ache or nausea when faced with school. These may be signs of anxiety and an early response is beneficial. Action needs to be taken so that what starts out as a small problem does not develop into something more longstanding, which could get in the way of progress at school.
What is anxiety?
Another word for it is worry and it is perfectly normal but it be-comes a problem when it stops people doing what they want or need to do.
How can you Help?
Facing up to the fear is the best way forward.
You can help by:
Keeping regular contact with school staff and including your child in this where appropriate.
Listening and acting on any concerns.
Supporting your child in facing the fearful situation daily.
Encouraging your child to remain in school.
Teaching your child to relax e.g. breathing in a con-trolled way, taking exercise, following out of school interests.
Talking with your child about what they do well.
Encouraging them to socialise and to keep in touch with school friends out of school hours
Ensuring that preparations are made for school the night before.
Ensuring that your child is sleeping well and eating regularly.
Aiming to have calm mornings, allowing plenty of time for an un-hurried start.
Reminding your child that school is not optional for anyone below 16 years.
The main advice is to try, try and try again. You must aim to be calm and confident when reassuring a child that the difficulty will decrease with time. Maintain regular home-school contact. It is most effective to continue to insist on your son/daughter going to school even if they resist. It will get easier over time as long as you persist.
Many children are anxious about school. By building up small successes, the anxiety that your child feels will subside and be experienced less frequently.
If, after you and the school have worked closely together there is no change you may wish to discuss the situation with an educational psychologist, who can consult with the School Anxiety Service as necessary.
Selective Mutism (SM) is a rare condition but children affected are at a significant disadvantage personally and socially.
SM children or ‘reluctant talkers’ can be overlooked in school but often have a powerful effect on those around them, including teachers and parents.
It can feel unnerving and rejecting if attempts to chat with a child in a normal way are silently rejected.
Overall, SM is a distressing condition. The earlier the situation can be addressed, the better the outcomes for all involved.
At school affected children may:
Be silent in the classroom and/or the playground but occasionally whisper single words
Be ‘on the edge’ of friendship groups
Avoid eye contact and turn away from friendly overtures
Appear to be rejecting/threatening towards concerned adults
Refuse to eat, drink or use toilet facilities on the school premises
Appear passive, shy, anxious and socially immature
Seem happiest when apart from adults
Be watchful and observant of peers & adults but always ‘keep a distance’
Sometimes seem to be ‘wooden’ and/or awkward in physical movements
Refuse to gesture, point or nod towards a friendly adult approach.
At home affected children may:
Be shy or withdrawn with less familiar people
Sometimes refuse to speak to certain family members, or neighbours
Interact well and join in with children and adults which is very different from the way they are in school
Sometimes seem to be articulate, strong willed, competitive and powerful young people.
Reluctant Talkers / Selectively Mute children
Both family and teachers can experience high levels of frustration when faced with a child who seems to refuse to even try to speak.
It may be helpful to be aware that:
Selective Mutism is an anxiety related disorder which arises from emotional distress and discomfort in social situations.
Attempts to pressurise the child to speak will only increase anxiety levels and could make a difficult situation even worse.
Children can be helped to speak in school and it is possible to plan individual treatment programmes. Work will take much patience and require ‘small steps’ planning with involvement from an educational psychologist and/or a speech and language therapist.
Early identification of selective mutism is vital and the role of parents/carers and teaching staff early on is crucial.
Available from Leicestershire Educational Psychology Service. You can telephone the Duty Line on 0116 305 5100 to speak with a Senior Educational Psychologist. Lines are open 8.30 am - 4.30 pm Tuesday to Thursday and during school holidays.