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How to Help if your Child is Scared to go to School

Addressing a child’s fear of going to school is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success. When children experience fear or anxiety about attending school, it can significantly impact their emotional and psychological development.

It may hinder their ability to learn, participate in classroom activities, and build positive relationships with peers and teachers. As parents and caregivers, we are responsible for providing the necessary support and guidance to help them overcome these fears and thrive in their educational journey.

Overview of the steps to help a scared child

Supporting a scared child requires a thoughtful and systematic approach. Following a series of steps, we can effectively address their fears and provide them with the tools to overcome them.

These steps include understanding the child’s fear, communicating and validating their feelings, giving reassurance and information, establishing a gradual exposure plan, building a support network, teaching coping strategies, encouraging a healthy lifestyle, monitoring progress, and adjusting strategies accordingly.

By implementing these steps, we can empower our children to face their fears and embrace the joys of learning.

Understand the Child’s Fear

Listen to the child’s concerns and emotions.

The first step in helping a scared child is to lend a compassionate ear and actively listen to their concerns and emotions. Create a safe and non-judgmental space where they feel comfortable expressing their fears.

Please encourage them to openly share their thoughts and anxieties about attending school. By listening attentively, we can gain valuable insights into the root causes of their fear and tailor our approach accordingly.

Identify specific triggers or reasons for the fear.

Understanding the specific triggers or reasons behind a child’s fear of going to school is essential in addressing their concerns effectively. Engage in open and honest conversations to identify specific incidents or situations contributing to their fear. It could be related to separation anxiety, bullying, academic pressures, or even a fear of the unknown. By pinpointing these triggers, we can develop targeted strategies to alleviate their stress.

Recognise signs of anxiety or distress.

It is vital to be attentive to the signs of anxiety or distress the child exhibits. These signs can manifest in various ways, such as physical symptoms (headaches, stomach-aches), changes in behaviour (withdrawal, irritability), or resistance to attending school. By recognising these indicators, we can better gauge the severity of their fear and respond with appropriate support and intervention.

Communicate and Validate the Child’s Feelings

When a child expresses fear about going to school, it is vital to establish open lines of communication and validate their feelings.

Create a safe and supportive environment for open communication.

Establishing a safe and supportive environment encourages open communication with the scared child. Foster an atmosphere of trust where they feel comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences without fear of judgment or criticism. Be patient, attentive, and empathetic during these conversations, providing reassurance that their emotions are valid and respected.

Validate the child’s emotions and fears without dismissing them.

When a child expresses their fear, it is essential to validate their emotions and fears without dismissing them. Acknowledge their concerns and reassure them that their feelings are understandable. Avoid belittling or minimising their worries, as it may discourage them from opening up further. Instead, offer words of understanding and support to help them feel heard and acknowledged.

Encourage the child to express their feelings through words, drawings, or play.

Children often find it challenging to articulate their emotions verbally. Encourage alternative forms of expression, such as drawing, writing, or engaging in imaginative play. These creative outlets allow them to externalise their fears and process their emotions safely and non-threateningly. Respect their preferred mode of expression and be attentive to the messages they convey.

Provide Reassurance and Information

Reassurance and providing relevant information are vital components in helping a scared child overcome their fear of going to school.

Explain the routine and structure of the school day.

To alleviate a child’s fear of the unknown:

  1. Please provide them with a clear understanding of the routine and structure of the school day.
  2. Walk them through the typical activities, such as arrival, class schedules, recess, lunchtime, and dismissal.
  3. Highlight the predictability and orderliness of the school environment, emphasising that they will be well-guided and supported throughout their day.

Discuss the child’s role and responsibilities at school.

Help the child develop a sense of ownership and responsibility by discussing their role and responsibilities at school. Explain the importance of attending school, engaging in learning, and participating in classroom activities. Emphasise their unique strengths and abilities, instilling confidence in their ability to navigate the school environment successfully.

Share positive stories and experiences about school.

Counterbalance their fears by sharing positive stories and experiences about school. Discuss instances where they overcame challenges, made friends, or discovered exciting subjects. Highlight the opportunities for personal growth, social connections, and the joy of learning that await them. By presenting a positive perspective, we can help reshape their perception of school and inspire enthusiasm.

Establish a Gradual Exposure Plan

When helping a child overcome their fear of going to school, one effective strategy is to create a gradual exposure plan. This approach allows the child to gradually become more comfortable with the school environment, reducing anxiety and building confidence. Let’s explore the steps involved in establishing a gradual exposure plan:

Collaborate with the child to create a step-by-step plan.

Collaboration is key when establishing a gradual exposure plan. Involve the child in decision-making, giving them a sense of control and agency. Together, create a step-by-step plan that breaks down their fears into manageable actions. Ensure that each step aligns with their comfort level and gradually increases exposure to the school environment.

Start with small, manageable activities related to school.

Begin the exposure plan with small, manageable activities that are related to school. For instance, they visit the school playground during non-school hours, meet a friendly teacher, or explore the library. The child can build confidence and gradually acclimate themselves to the school environment by starting with familiar and less intimidating settings.

Gradually increase exposure to the school environment.

As the child becomes more comfortable, exposure to the school environment gradually increases. This may include attending school events, spending time in a classroom setting, or participating in extracurricular activities. Monitor their progress closely and provide continuous support and encouragement throughout this process.

Build a Support Network

Building a support network is crucial to helping a child who is scared to go to school. By involving various individuals and resources, we can create a strong foundation of support to address the child’s fears effectively. Here are some key ways to build a support network:

Involve teachers and school staff in addressing the child’s fear

Collaborate with teachers and school staff to create a comprehensive support network for the child. Inform them about the child’s fear and work together to develop strategies for a smoother transition into school. Teachers can play a pivotal role in providing additional guidance, reassurance, and personalised attention, helping the child feel safe and supported.

Seek professional help, such as a school counsellor or therapist, if necessary.

If the child’s fear persists or significantly impacts their daily functioning, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Consult with a school counsellor or therapist who specialises in child anxiety. These professionals can provide specialised interventions, coping strategies, and ongoing support tailored to the child’s needs.

Encourage friendships and social connections at school.

Encouraging the development of friendships and social connections at school can significantly alleviate a child’s fear. Facilitate opportunities for them to engage with their peers through group activities, clubs, or playdates. Friendships provide a sense of belonging, support, and companionship, which can foster a positive school experience and alleviate anxieties.

Teach Coping Strategies

Introduce relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness

Teaching relaxation techniques can empower a child to manage their anxiety effectively. Introduce simple techniques like deep breathing exercises or mindfulness practices that promote relaxation and emotional regulation. Encourage the child to practice these techniques regularly at home and in school to develop resilience and cope with stressful situations.

Help the child develop positive self-talk and challenge negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts can exacerbate a child’s fear. Help them develop positive self-talk by challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more empowering and realistic beliefs. Teach them to identify negative self-statements and reframe them into positive affirmations. This cognitive restructuring can help rewire their thinking patterns and boost their self-confidence.

Practice problem-solving skills to address specific fears or concerns.

Equip the child with problem-solving skills to address specific fears or concerns. Teach them to break down their fears into manageable parts and brainstorm practical solutions. By fostering their problem-solving abilities, we empower them to confront challenges, proactively reinforcing their belief in competence.

Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle for a child is paramount when addressing their fear of going to school. A healthy lifestyle encompasses various aspects, including physical activity, sleep, and nutrition. By prioritising these areas, we can support the child’s overall well-being and help them navigate their school experience more quickly.

Promote regular exercise and physical activity.

Physical activity plays a crucial role in managing anxiety and promoting overall well-being. Encourage the child to exercise regularly and physically, as it releases endorphins, reduces stress, and enhances mood. Encourage activities they enjoy, such as sports, dancing, or outdoor play, to make it a fun and rewarding experience.

Ensure the child gets enough sleep and maintains a balanced diet.

Adequate sleep and a balanced diet contribute to emotional stability and mental clarity. Establish a consistent sleep routine, ensuring the child gets enough restorative sleep each night. Also, please provide them with nutritious meals and snacks to support their health and energy levels. A well-rested and nourished child is better equipped to manage anxiety effectively.

Minimise stressors outside of school that may contribute to anxiety.

Recognise and address external stressors that may contribute to the child’s anxiety. When possible, minimise exposure to stressful situations or environments and provide a calm and supportive home environment. Encourage a healthy work-life balance for the child, allowing ample time for relaxation, hobbies, and quality family interactions.

Monitor Progress and Adjust Strategies

Monitoring progress and adjusting strategies are crucial to helping a child who is scared to go to school. By staying attentive and adaptive, we can ensure that our efforts remain effective and tailored to the child’s evolving needs.

Regularly check in with the child about their feelings and experiences.

Maintain open lines of communication with the child and regularly check in on their feelings and experiences. Ask about their day at school, challenges, and how they coped with their fears. Actively listen to their responses, providing empathy, validation, and support. By staying attuned to their progress, we can make informed adjustments to our strategies.

Make necessary adjustments to the exposure plan or coping strategies.

Based on the child’s progress and feedback, be prepared to adjust the exposure plan or coping strategies. If specific steps are too overwhelming, take action back and revise the plan accordingly. Flexibility is critical to prioritise the child’s needs and comfort level throughout their journey.

Celebrate and reinforce small achievements along the way.

Celebrate and reinforce the child’s small achievements along the way. Acknowledge their efforts, resilience, and progress in facing their fears. Offer praise, rewards, or tokens of recognition to reinforce their confidence and motivation. By celebrating their accomplishments, we encourage their continued growth and perseverance.


Helping a child scared to go to school requires a comprehensive and empathetic approach. Recap the critical steps discussed in this article:

  • Understanding the child’s fear
  • Communicating and validating their feelings
  • Providing reassurance and information
  • Establishing a gradual exposure plan
  • Building a support network
  • Teaching coping strategies
  • Encouraging a healthy lifestyle
  • Monitoring progress
  • Adjusting strategies accordingly

Emphasise the importance of patience, understanding, and ongoing support.

Throughout the journey of addressing a child’s fear of going to school, it is crucial to emphasise the importance of patience, understanding, and ongoing support. Overcoming anxiety takes time, and each child’s progress will vary. Be patient with their individual pace and provide unwavering support throughout the process.

Encourage seeking professional help if the fear persists or worsens.

While these steps can be practical for many children, we must recognise that some fears may persist or worsen despite our best efforts. In such cases, it is crucial to encourage seeking professional help from a school counsellor or therapist specialising in child anxiety. Professional intervention can provide additional tools and strategies tailored to the child’s needs, ensuring their long-term emotional well-being.

By following these steps, we can empower our children to overcome their fears embrace their educational journey and academically and emotionally thrive.


What can I do to help my child who is scared to go to school?

Supporting a child who is scared to go to school requires understanding and patience. Establish open lines of communication, provide reassurance and information, create a gradual exposure plan, teach coping strategies and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Monitor progress and adjust strategies accordingly. Lastly, consider seeking professional help if the fear persists or worsens.

What are some coping strategies for a child scared to go to school?

Coping strategies can be tailored based on the individual child’s needs. Common methods include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness activities, positive self-talk, and creating a safe space. Encouraging physical activities such as sports or outdoor play can also be helpful.

How can I support a child’s emotional well-being at school?

Support the child’s emotional well-being at school by promoting important elements of self-care, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet. Encourage positive relationships with peers and teachers, support their academic and extracurricular activities, and recognize and address external stressors that may contribute to their anxiety. Above all, be attentive to the needs of the child and provide a safe and supportive environment.