Childline advice: managing worries at school

by My Kent Family reporter

In this week's column for My Kent Family, services manager Wendy Robinson talks about helping children worried about school:

One minute the school holidays have started and you’ve got six weeks or fun and sun stretched before you. The next; you’re shopping for the new term’s uniform.

Children in Kent have been back at school for a few weeks now and while the first day back nerves might have worn off, for some children the worries and anxiety are a constant.

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Talking about what worries a child is very important
Talking about what worries a child is very important

During 2016-17 Childline carried out 15,156 counselling sessions with children experiencing worries about school. Many were under pressure to perform well, especially during their exams, while

others couldn’t cope with the workload, disliked their teacher, or were struggling to settle in to a new school.

One teenage girl who contacted Childline said: “My parents are really annoyed with my exam results. I thought I was going to do well and get good grades because I prepared loads but I failed. I

feel like a waste of space. I’m trying to remain positive but it’s hard – I feel like my parents hate me.”

Children might find it hard to talk about what’s bothering them but there are some signs to look out for. They might suddenly become withdrawn or depressed, have problems sleeping, want to miss school, change their eating habits or at its most serious - start self-harming.

But there are lots you can do to support your child if they’re experiencing problems at school:

Encourage children to talk to their teacher if they are worried
Encourage children to talk to their teacher if they are worried

Homework

Encourage them to talk to their teacher. If they know they’re struggling they might able to explain things to them differently, or organise extra lessons so they can keep on top of things. Help them plan their time – encourage them to write a daily to-do list.

Remind your children that their body language is important
Remind your children that their body language is important

Moving schools

Encourage them to look out for people who have similar hobbies and interests. Perhaps take something to school to share at break time, like sweets or a new game. Remind them that the number of friends they have isn’t important. What matters is that they have people they’re close to and can share things with.

Don’t forget that body language is important – smile, talk clearly and make eye contact.

Exams

It’s important not to place unnecessary pressure on children to gain certain grades. Making sure they take regular breaks, eat well and get some exercise will really help them to focus. Help alleviate their worries by talking to them and be sure to give them space and time to do homework and revision.

Exams is often a cause for worry
Exams is often a cause for worry

Managing anxiety

One in six of us are affected by anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s important that children experiencing anxiety know that these feelings will pass and they are in control.

Encouraging your child to talk to you and finding ways to boost their self-esteem. Relaxation techniques can help distance themselves from how they’re feeling. Why not research methods together – breathing exercises and meditation are great.

Whatever the worry, there is plenty of advice on the Childline website. Why not explore it together and come up with some solutions – visit www.childline.org.uk. If they can’t talk to you, they can

speak to one of our trained volunteer counsellors free and in confidence on 0800 1111.

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