Norfolk Home Learning

        From small beginnings to great success

Help with anxiety linked to school

You're not alone. Half the parents who contact me are trying to cope with school refusal or school-related depression and anxiety.  

Among the particular issues they bring me are

  • Panic attacks and the fear of losing control in public
  • Agoraphobia - a fear of public places or 'situations where escape could be difficult' (NHS)
  • Bullying (see Beating the Bullies) and social exclusion. The world can be a lonely place.
A socially excluded boy walking alone in the rain
  • School phobia, due to conditions at school or a fear of being cut off from home and family
  • Depression, causing persistent gloom and low motivation. It occurs most often when people have little control of their lives
  • Anxiety about meeting the social and work demands of school. This is always high when tests and examinations are looming. Nervous, pressured teachers can't help infecting their pupils!
A little girl by herself, looking sad

Above and below: How do we save this little girl from teenage despair?

A despairing teenage girl alone in the woods
An old school photo, some children smiling, one looking anxious

This school photo says everything:

One pupil in seven suffers at school, and my postbag shows that their parents suffer as much as they do.

If your youngster’s anxiety is becoming excessive you need to act decisively

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Try to ensure that your youngster feels heard by someone they trust
  • Make sure they feel heeded, with a really big say in how to move forwards. For a start, perhaps you could work as partners in weighing up the advice on this page
  • Make sure they feel upheld as individuals, with plenty of scope to succeed or fail in things that matter. (Remind them that the only real failure is the one you don't learn from.)
  • Try to maintain routines such as school attendance. Keep the school informed if attendance is patchy so they don't treat unavoidable absence as casual 'skiving'
  • Consider the option of home education, which could bring some relief and open up a space for healing

Professional advice

  • Follow NHS guidance about exercise: it help to combat depression and anxiety. (Some parents give too many lifts!)
  • Consider having a word with your doctor, who can arrange professional counselling on the NHS (but expect a long wait). Meanwhile, spare your youngster the burden of your own worries. If they know you're anxious at least let them see you walking it off or taking other self-help steps. Set an example!
  • I survived my unhappy childhood (it's me in the school photo!), gaining lectureships and success as an author. I now offer free educational (not medical) advice for youngsters with depression and anxiety, or aversion to school.

A child feeding a horse through an open window

When families visit us my wife's ponies are often the biggest attraction! If nothing else, we can often offer a breath of fresh air and a chance to shed new light on things!

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Thank you for contacting me. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks to Bethany Whitaker for the 'lonely boy' photo near the start of this page