Are You Homeschooling An Anxious Child?

Anxious/Anxiety

  • feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome
  • Psychiatry: a nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks

I recently read online about a mother’s struggle with getting her anxious child to school. The more I read, the more I wanted to tell her to try homeschooling. I didn’t. I couldn’t – I couldn’t make comments on the site.

The experts were encouraging the mother to keep trying as she was making progress and it was obvious she was supporting her daughter. The mother also said that her daughter did want to go to school…

Mine didn’t.

Miss 14 definitely did not want to go to school.

Every morning there were tears and stomach aches.

I used to think she was just shy, very shy (she always has been). But the more reading I have done, the more I have come to believe there is more to it than just being shy.

1. Does Your Child Suffer From Anxiety?

Do you know the signs?

I didn’t.

According to raisingchildren.net and reachout.com, if the following symptoms last longer than two weeks, seek medical advice.

Does/is your child:

  • agitated, tense, unable to stop worrying, unable to relax;
  • sensitive to criticism, extremely self-conscious, uncomfortable in social situations; (Miss 14)
  • avoid new or difficult situations, have trouble facing new challenges; (Miss 14)
  • withdrawn or very shy, avoid social activities; (Miss 14)
  • unable to sleep yet constantly tired;
  • have stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; (Miss 14)
  • have chest pain, sweating rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing.

It is normal for us all to feel anxious about new or difficult situations. Normal anxiety lasts a few hours or days.

Anxiety disorders are different. The symptoms are consistent, intense, and/or severe and can last for weeks, months or even years. They can interfere with your child’s learning and socializing, as well as their ability to do everyday things.

2. How To Support Your Anxious Child

Do not dismiss their fears and anxieties. Let your child know that you are there to help and support them. (Lots of hugs and kisses, a loving home/homeschooling environment.)

Gently encourage your child to try the things that make them anxious. But don’t push. Sometimes even the gentlest of encouragement can feel like ‘pushing’ to your child and you could end up with a melt-down on your hands!

Wait until your child becomes anxious before stepping in to help. It’s normal to want to protect your child from new and potentially stressful situations – especially when the fall-out can affect the whole family.

Praise your child for doing something that makes them anxious – no matter how small it is. It is not small to them.

Don’t label your child as ‘shy’ or ‘anxious’. They are brave and strong. They are trying daily to overcome their anxiety.

Try to be a good role model by dealing with your own stress and anxiety. Talk about your own experiences with your child. Let them know that what they are going through is normal.

3. Ways To Cope With Anxiety

There are a few ways to cope with anxiety. What works for one child may not work for yours. Keep trying different methods until you find one that works.

  • Go for a walk: physical exercise can help your child take their mind off their fears and anxieties
  • Journaling: the simple act of writing down their fears and worries can help them begin to overcome them
  • Breathing: if your child suffers from panic attacks this method may help

get your child to focus on an object – stare at it
get them to breathe in slowly for a count of four
get them to hold the breath for a count of four
get them to release the breath for a count of four

  • Meditation/Mindfulness: focusing on the present moment through meditation – you can find out more at finerminds.

4. What Causes Anxiety?

While most people do become stressed or anxious about certain situations, most children with anxiety disorders have common risk factors:

  • Genetic: the child has a family history of mental health problems.
  • Personality: the child is very sensitive.
  • Environment: a very stressful event occurred in the child’s life, ie: grief, abuse.
  • Other: ongoing physical illness such as asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue.

Anxiety can be triggered by:

  • A lack of sleep – make sure your child has a regular bedtime routine and try to stick to it.
  • Major life events – death in the family (relative, friend, pet). Find support groups online and/or in person to help your child cope.
  • Health issues – make sure your child has healthy eating habits and avoid stimulants like cola, coffee, energy drinks, chocolate and sugar. Make sure your child gets regular physical exercise as well as regular medical check-ups.

5. Learning Anxiety

Miss 14 balks at learning anything new.

At the moment we are sticking with the basics – English, Maths, French, Typing. Although, she does complain about French and typing and often asks why she needs to learn them. I respond that they are good skills to have and she usually goes back to practising them.

Both French and typing are online so she is working at her own pace.

I am trying to keep everything relaxed and self-paced to build her confidence.

For maths we recently stopped using maths online as Miss 14 was becoming increasingly anxious, upset, annoyed with it. (Miss 12 still uses it). We have gone back to basics and we are using free worksheets from Math Salamanders. She happily completes the worksheet, brings it to me then goes on to French.

If your anxious child is anything like mine, you will have good days and bad days in your homeschool.

On the ‘bad’ days (mornings), we don’t do any lessons. Although Miss 12 will still do hers, Miss 14 does whatever she likes so she can calm down and relax – read, watch Netflix, watch YouTube, play card games with her sister (sometimes not relaxing!)

And we try again the next morning.

Minimizing anxiety in the homeschool is all about trial and error.

After Easter, we will be adding science and history into our homeschool routine and, hopefully, it will go smoothly.

6. Social Anxiety

The fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.

Children with social anxiety become emotionally distressed when:

Meeting/being introduced to new people

Miss 14 has always been very shy when meeting new people. Even now, friends and relatives voice their surprise if she speaks to them – which, of course, embarrasses her.

Being teased or criticized (even if only jokingly)

Miss 14 does not like it when something she does or says is turned into a joke at her expense – even by immediate family.

Being the centre of attention

Miss 14 has always hated being the centre of attention. She stopped going to dance class as a young child after the teacher used her dancing skills to demonstrate to the other students how to do a few steps.

Being watched while doing something

If Miss 14 catches you watching her she will become extremely self-conscious which can quickly turn to anger and tears as she demands to know why you are looking at her.

Getting Miss 14 into social situations (homeschool group meet-ups) is done carefully. When we first started homeschooling I would ask her if she wanted to go.

The answer was always ‘no’.

Now that I’m homeschooling Miss 12 as well as Miss 14 I have become better at getting her into new social situations.

I don’t tell her until after breakfast on the morning we are going. That way there is no time for her to think about it at all!

It has worked. So far.

Conclusion

You are not alone.

Just like your child, you will have good days and bad days.

No lessons being done in your homeschool is not the end of the world. You are not a bad parent. You are not failing your child.

Instead of lessons, you could:

  • read a book together
  • watch a documentary
  • go for a walk and talk about the wildlife, plants, insects you see
  • do some gardening or plan a garden
  • play a game (board game, card game, etc)
  • cook together, bake a cake

If all else fails, snuggle up and watch your child’s favourite movie or T.V. show.

You don’t have to do it alone. Help is available from:

If you still feel like no one understands what you’re going through, message me and we can have a chat.

What do you do to get over a bad day?

Whatever it is, remember (try to)…

Enjoy the journey

Lara xx

 

 


Author: Lara Galea

Lara is a freelance writer, blogger, photographer and homeschooler. When not helping others with their journey, she is either reading, binge-watching Netflix or creating havoc in the kitchen.

3 thoughts

    1. Thank you Sage. I’m glad you liked the article – I hope it helped. At age 5 my Miss 14 did not speak at all when strangers (or even family members other than immediate family) spoke to her. I wish I had homeschooled her right from the start. Good luck with your Miss 5. xx

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