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Navigating School Avoidance: Essential Strategies for Parents of Anxious Teens

Updated: Feb 17

As parents, it is heart-wrenching to see our children struggle, especially when it comes to teen anxiety and unfortunately school can be a major contributing factor to their discomfort.

In particular, the transition back to school after a holiday can be particularly tough for an anxious teenager and can result in a reluctance to return or complete school avoidance.

Here I discuss some tips for parents to navigate this more easily with strategies to help alleviate the anxiety and create a smoother return – for both parent and teen.

“Don't work on making them go to school; work on whatever it is that is making them not want to”


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Teenage girl standing alone in school corridor

Preparing for the Transition Back to School

One of the most effective ways to help your teen navigate the transition back to school is through preparation.

Make the unfamiliar as familiar as possible by discussing what they can expect. Plan the journey, familiarise yourselves with the school layout, and go over your teen’s timetable together. Address any summer homework and reach out to teachers if additional support is needed in any area (academically or emotionally).

By addressing these details, you can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with the unknown.

Managing Morning Stress

Getting ready for school in the mornings can be particularly stressful for both parents and teens.

To minimise anxiety, allocate extra time and prepare everything the night before. Ensure that uniforms, bags, and equipment are ready and easily accessible. Misplaced items can trigger anxiety or escalate emotions, so it's essential to have everything in order.

Additionally, address any issues with uniforms or equipment promptly to prevent unnecessary stress.

Addressing Specific Worries

It's crucial to have open conversations with your teen about their specific worries.

By understanding their concerns, you can work together to find solutions or develop strategies to help overcome them.

Help your teen identify negative thoughts and challenge these by creating lists of their values and strengths. Encourage them to focus on valuing themselves and provide conversation starters or fillers to ease social anxiety.

For more support in helping them with a negative mindset, check out the previous article: Why Is My Teen So Negative? And 5 Ways to Help.

If academic pressures are a concern, manage expectations and ensure your teen knows that their best effort is what matters most.

Mum comforting anxious teenage girl

Creating a Supportive School Environment

If your teen is worried about the school environment, research ways to provide extra support. This may involve finding a teacher or space for your teen to have downtime, arranging one-on-one support, or creating flexibility within their timetable.

By addressing their concerns and working with the school, you can help create a nurturing environment that can ease the anxiety they are feeling.

Taking Care of Yourself

As a parent, it's essential to prioritise your own well-being. Practice self-care and create a calm environment for yourself. Wake up early to have time for personal activities before the morning rush. Allow yourself extra time in the mornings to avoid stress and be prepared for potential emotional outbursts from your teen.

Understand that the first few weeks of school may be challenging, and it's crucial to give yourself and your teen space to adjust.

Seek support from other parents, join online communities, and consider therapy or counselling if you feel this could be of benefit.


How Do I Know if it's Anxiety.....and WHAT THE HECK DO I DO?!


Empowering Your Teen to Manage Their Anxiety

One of the most significant ways parents can support their teens is by helping them recognise and manage their anxiety.

Encourage your teen to become aware of the signs and symptoms of anxiety, such as intrusive thoughts or physical sensations. By catching anxiety early, they can interrupt the cycle before it escalates.

Help them identify strategies that work for them, such as exercise, journaling, or mindfulness.

By empowering your teen to take control of their anxiety, they can develop resilience and reduce its impact on their daily lives.

Signpost with the words panic and clam in two different directions

Future Outlook for School Avoidance

Navigating the transition back to school can be challenging for both parents and teens. However, by implementing these strategies and maintaining open communication, parents can provide invaluable support to their teens.

Remember that anxiety is treatable and preventable, and your teen has the power to overcome it.

By empowering them and fostering a supportive environment, you can help them thrive academically and emotionally.


What next?

A line of people holding each others hands up to the sky

Join the growing community of parents who are turning the tide on their teen's anxiety! Sign up to the mailing list to become a One in a Million Mum (or Dad) and receive practical strategies & ongoing support. Together we can do this!


**Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment

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