Helping my daughter with school based anxiety (school refusal and back to school anxiety)

This page helps link you to resources that may be useful if your daughter is nervous about returning to school after holidays or is experiencing school refusal.

National (and international) research has recognised an increase in school-based anxiety since the COVID-19 pandemic.

School-based anxiety may manifest as distress the night before, or morning of school, health complaints (particularly stomach upsets), irritability or repeated requests to be collected from school.

Resist the urge to problem-solve for your child or reassure them that everything will be okay. Whilst this is probably true of course, it can exacerbate anxiety and safety-seeking behaviours. The key is to listen, validate their concerns (eg, “I can totally understand that ___ would feel scary”), and remind them that they are very capable of doing hard things!

Maintain expectations about school attendance and use practical strategies like consistent and predictable night-before and morning routines.

Lastly, be mindful of your own feelings. School refusal can be emotionally challenging, and you may feel anything from anger and sadness to guilt and worry. Acknowledge these are legitimate responses but try to put them to the side when speaking with your child about their concerns. Distress is contagious and we want to use our nervous system to calm theirs.

Further tips and tricks for school refusal are:


Particular advice on back-to-school nerves is available here.

And on starting high school, or a new school, here.

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