There are many reasons why children may dread school. Common factors range from anxiety about friendship groups, to feeling that he/she is dropping behind and starting to notice that classmates are achieving more. Perhaps your child is nervous about playing sports and prefers doing art or I.T.
Returning to school after a long summer can also bring up a fear of change or separation anxiety for children. If your child is experiencing anxiety at the prospect of going back this September, there are a few tools you as a parent can harness to reassure them.
Communicating with your child
The first thing a parent should say to their child if they are experiencing anxiety about school is: ”I understand that you are feeling afraid.” Reassurance from a loving parent makes the child feel safe, that they are being heard as well as the knowledge that fear, like other emotions, is a normal life experience. Next, the parent needs to discover the reason behind the anxiety, if at all possible. It may be helpful to ask them what exactly they are anxious about - is it the thought of going back to school in general, or something more specific, for example a teacher or subject.
Communication is always the strongest tool we have in our toolbox, especially with our teenage children. Set aside adequate time and space to communicate openly with your child in a calm way, with your full attention on them.
Pinpointing the exact reason behind the anxiety allows you to take the next step in creating an action plan.
Working with a coach to help your child with anxiety
If your child’s social network at school is troubling them then working with a coach can help them. A good coach will be able to support your child in discussing why they find it difficult to socially interact and provide practical steps and solutions they can take. Discussing anxieties about returning to school with someone neutral can be a distinct advantage. Coaching can help your child build confidence and set personal goals to help them overcome perceived obstacles and personal challenges.
Anxiety around academic achievement
If your child is experiencing anxiety around their performance at school, be it difficulties with reading, comprehension, writing skills or symptoms of dyslexia, then our Key Neurodevelopment Programme could help them thrive.
The reason behind underachieving at school could be down to retained reflexes. We are born with a set of primitive reflexes, which help the nervous system to develop. By the time a child reaches their first birthday, these reflexes should have all been inhibited. However, sometimes they get ‘stuck’ in place, never completing their work, locking the nervous system in a state of immaturity.
This immaturity makes school life very difficult, interfering with reading, writing, balance, coordination, sports and fine motor skills. The result is low confidence, frustration and a failure to match performance to ability. It can also cause behavioural problems such as anxiety, mood swings and frustration.
An assessment might unearth some retained reflexes that may be holding your child back. For example, the Moro Reflex results in hyperarousal and the child might find school exhausting as a result of this. The ATNR (asymmetrical tonic neck reflex) as a retained reflex meanwhile causes symptoms of dyslexia.
Our neurodevelopmental programme works with exercises to mature the nervous system and overcome these challenges.
We also use audiograms which look at hypersensitivity and distortions of a child’s hearing. We can also assess whether the anxiety/low mood is more deep-seated, in which case a course of Key Auditory Therapy could really help your child.
Vagus Nerve exercise to reduce anxiety
Another tool for working with anxiety in children is working with the vagus nerve. It involves a basic exercise, taking less than two minutes, which enhances social engagement. It works by increasing the blood flow to the brainstem, where the five cranial nerves necessary for social engagement originate.
Firstly notice how much freedom of movement in your head and neck and whether it is tense or stiff. Then lie down on your back and weave the fingers together and cup them behind your head with the weight of the head resting comfortably in your interwoven fingers. Feel the bones of the back of your head in your hands and, keeping your head in place, just look to the right. Just move your eyes. After a short period of time - upto about 60 seconds, you will swallow or yawn or sigh and this is a sign of the relaxation of the autonomic nervous system. Bring your eyes back to the centre and with the head still move your eyes to the left, hold the eyes there until you notice again a sigh, yawn or swallow and then bring the eyes back to centre. Take your hands away and sit up and notice if there is any improvement in the mobility of your neck.
Whilst the thought of going or returning to school can bring up feelings for anxiety for many children, it is entirely possible to overcome them. Through neurodevelopmental programmes, auditory therapy and mindset coaching, your child is given every chance at overcoming their anxiety and thriving at school.
To see more about how we can help, see here.