fear of going to school

Top Ways To Help Kids Cope With the Fear of Going to School

Did you know that the number of schools in the US as of 2020 is 130,930? This means that, on average, the number of schools per state is 2,618. Considering this, the number of schools in California is above the curve, while the number in Alaska is below.

If your child is going to school soon, but they have a fear of going to school, you probably feel stressed. How can you ensure your child gets their education without feeling anxious or scared?

Fortunately, in this article, we’ll review the top ways you can help your kid cope with their fear of going to school. Finally, they can feel ready for their school day, and you can drop them off without feeling guilty. Read on to learn more.

What School Phobia Is

If you’ve been wondering, “What is school anxiety?” it helps to know what school phobia or school avoidance is. This occurs when a child feels severely scared or stressed about the prospect of going to school, which can occur in various ways.

One way is that your child actively protests going to school or is unwilling to go. Another way is that, once they’ve gone to school, they struggle to feel comfortable and then want to return home.

This is an issue that your child isn’t alone. Up to 5% of kids experience fears regarding school.

There are two ways that children express this issue. One way is with external cues. For example, your child might refuse to get out of their bed in the morning before the start of school or tell you they don’t want to go.

Other ways children less externally express school phobia is by experiencing depression around schooling, often saying that they’re sick, attempting to leave school, or avoiding specific subjects or classes with which they’re struggling.

Sometimes, school phobia will express itself as physical symptoms. This is because, as a result of their phobia of school, anxiety crops up and causes physical symptoms.

Some of these physical symptoms include diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and tummy aches.

How to Help Your Kid With Their Fear of Going to School

In this section, we’ll review phobia of school and school anxiety tips so that you can help your kid with their fear of going to school. This way, you can ensure that your child will feel less stressed and scared about going to school.

Start Early With Making Transitions

By exposing your child to changes early, they’ll be better at adapting to transitions. For children who have, at young ages, been making changes that are gradual, the transition of going from home to school is much easier.

For this reason, it’s best for you to initiate change and get your child used to school at preschool. If your child isn’t going to preschool and directly into kindergarten, prepare them in other ways beforehand.

This preparation could include meeting their teacher before their first day and talking about school before them.


Sometimes, all you have to do is distract your child on the way to school so that the stress doesn’t take over. On the way to school, focus on things that aren’t the dropoff or the school day. For example, give your child their favorite books and toys on the journey over.

Be playful and fun. It also helps if the teachers help you out. If they’re at the door ready to hug and hold your child the second they arrive, your child will be less likely to think about their stress.

Help Your Child Deal With Their Physical Symptoms

If your child is experiencing significant physical symptoms due to anxiety, it can be difficult for them to think. To address these symptoms, use calming strategies such as breathing exercises or mindfulness.

Slowing down your breathing can reduce symptoms such as confusion, anger, depression, and anxiety. You can use apps like Breathing Bubbles or Smiling Mind to guide your child through this exercise.

“Heart” Reminders

Another useful tip is to use “heart” reminders. When you use this tip, you’ll draw a heart on your child’s hand that they can look at during the day. You can kiss the heart when you drop them off and tell them that, even though you aren’t there physically, you are emotionally.

If your child has trouble saying goodbye to you when you drop them off, this can be a great way to help them feel that you’re there with them after drop-off.

Involve Your Child in Activities

You can also reduce your child’s stress regarding going to school by getting them involved with events or activities before they start going to school. These activities could include clubs, music lessons, or sports. By going to them, your child can make friends and build their confidence.

If your child comes into their first day of school with one of these friends, they’ll likely feel less stressed.

Short-Term Goals and Rewards

Sometimes, children do really well when they have well-defined goals to meet. If this is the case for your child, you can use short-term goals and rewards to help them with their fear of going to school. For example, you can tell them, “We’ll go to the zoo this weekend if you attend school this week every day.”

Scheduled Mental Health Days

Another thing you can do is schedule mental health days in advance. This is a preventative approach. To do this on a regular basis, your child will have mental health days when they’ll get breaks from school so they can recuperate and relax.

For example, every nine weeks, you could allow your child to have three mental health days. These days, you can allow your child to watch TV, wear their PJs, and veg out.

In addition to being helpful as school anxiety advice, this tip can also provide you with an opportunity for you to stay at home and connect with your child.

Being Direct and Honest

Sometimes, it helps to be direct and honest with your child. Even at a young age, you can sit down with them and explain that you can’t spend all day with them, that you have to work, and that getting an education is important.

Then, you can ask them questions about their experience of school. What do they not like about it? What do they like?

Then, you can focus on what your child likes about school. This might be enough to distract them.

Remember the Importance of Sleep

If your child sleeps the right amount of hours and is on a school schedule even before school begins, this can make a big difference. This is because the big switch between unstructured summer time and highly structured school time can add to the stress of the transition.

By having your child on their school sleep schedule before school begins, they’ll have already completed part of the transition. Because transitions cause anxiety, this likely will help to lessen the anxiety your child experiences.

Getting Help From Specialists and Teachers

If you need additional support, another tip that might be helpful from this phobia of school and anxiety guide is to connect with school staff and your child’s teachers. They might have some information you don’t have about what causes your child’s fear of going to school.

For example, maybe they’re aware of a bullying problem your child is experiencing.

Or maybe they’ve noticed a particular learning or academic challenge your child is currently facing that makes school more difficult for them. Whatever the cause, once you understand it, this can help you help your child.

Sometimes, children need a licensed child therapist’s help. Look for one who specializes in school phobia and schedule an appointment with them.

They’ll be able to help your child learn about their coping strategies and feelings. They’ll also be able to help them in managing potential stressors that could be impacting the avoidance.

Need More Information?

Now that you’ve learned the top ways you can help your child cope with their fear of going to school, you might need more information. Maybe you want to learn how schools can help you or how to find the right licensed child therapist for your child.

Whatever information you need, we can help. At Montessori Downtown, we’re experts when it comes to children’s needs and education.

We also offer a variety of Montessori educational programs. To learn more about our programs, check them out now.

AUTHOR: Montessori School of Downtown

It all began over 30 years ago with two newlyweds who were passionate about education. Together, Ms. Rita, a renowned professional educator, and Mr. Hersh, a natural teacher and entrepreneur, created a child care education program that focused on the concept of self-inspired learning.View all posts by Montessori School of Downtown |