Anxious about school

Expert tips on how to handle your child's anxiety

Q: My five-year-old has really bad anxiety when he thinks about school. He gets sick to his stomach and cries as soon as he wakes up in the morning. He’s fine once he gets into the classroom, but I hate leaving him while he’s still crying. He has said he is too tired and the day is too long, but he sleeps at least 11 hours a night. Any advice?

A: Most five-year-olds need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night and it sounds like he could still use a short nap during the day. If naps aren’t part of his school day, ask his teacher if she could incorporate some rest time into his day. It’s also important to keep his sleep routine the same on weekends.

A few things to consider: Is your son having bad dreams that are disrupting his sleep? Are there any big changes going on in his life? Sometimes anxiety can crop up when a new sibling is born or when there is parental conflict. Bullying might also be a factor here — encourage your son to speak to his teacher if he feels threatened by any of his peers.

Build his confidence before class by telling him you know he’ll be able to manage whatever happens and remind him of all the things he’s learned at school. Give him a big hug and reassure him that you’ll be thinking about him and that you’ll be there to get him at the end of the day. Most kids enjoy going to school in large part because it’s an opportunity to have fun with their friends. If you think your son is struggling to make friends, arrange some playdates with his classmates to help foster friendships.

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