Managing anxiety in primary school


Recognise the symptoms

Children can find it hard to understand and talk about how they’re feeling so are unlikely to tell you when they’re suffering from anxiety. Look out for the signs, and if you suspect that they might feeling anxious, gently encourage them to open up to you. Read our advice for talking to your child about emotions.

Watch for the signs: some of the symptoms of anxiety can include problems concentrating, excessive worrying, loss of confidence, as well as sleep problems, such as bedwetting and bad dreams.


Acknowledge their feelings

Once they have opened up to you, don’t dismiss how they are feeling. It might feel natural to tell them to stop worrying but this really won't help. Recognise and accept what they are feeling, and reassure them that everybody feels anxious sometimes. Try telling them about a time you were anxious and how it turned out, to show them that things will get better.

Top tip: anxiety can manifest itself in physical ways such as nausea, stomach cramps and loss of appetite. Reassure your child that they are not ill, and that these symptoms will go away when their worries do.


Coping mechanisms

It can be tempting to help your child avoid any anxiety-provoking situations. However, a much more effective long-term solution is to encourage them to find ways to manage. Explore and experiment together with coping mechanisms that they can use whenever they're faced with a difficult situation.

Top tip: try practising some of these techniques for helping kids keep calm.


Write down worries

Encourage your little one to start a diary or a ‘worry jar’ where they write down anything that is bothering them. Talk through these worries together. What can you do to ease them? Can you devise any ways to cope together? Just getting these problems off their chest is a great first step to feeling more positive.

Try this: sing along together to the Worried Song, from our friends at Feeling Better.


Speak to someone

If none of the above methods are helping to ease your child’s anxiety, and it is having a serious impact on their life, then it might be time to speak to their GP. They can recommend a treatment plan, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, that can help your little one to alter the way that they think about and approach different situations.

Top tip: you could also speak to your child's teacher or the school's special education needs coordinator. They will have plenty of experience in this area, and can keep an eye out for when your little one is struggling to cope at school.


Explore more on this topic:

If homework is causing your little one worries, read our tips on how to handle Key Stage 1 homework

Try our starting school discussion guide to get your little one talking

Help your child to cope with their feelings

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