Anxiety at School – What Kids and Teens With Anxiety Need Teachers to Know

Anxiety at School - What Kids and Teens With Anxiety Need Teachers to Know

All kids have greatness in them, and like any of us, they will all need their own combination of ‘the right things’ to flourish – the right people, the right environment, the right motivation, the right encouragement. The right support will make magic happen. It will light a vibrant, glowing spark that will open the world up to them, and them up to the world. 

As they grow, there will be things that get in their way. These will also be the same things that will teach them resilience, strength, courage, and the lessons that will breathe life into the remarkable potential that is in them. Anxiety can be a big one of these.

Anxiety is so common, and in any classroom it’s very likely that there will be a number of children who will feel its heavy hand. Anxiety loves anything unfamiliar, or any situation that comes with any potential for embarrassment, failure, humiliation, or shame. These are the twists that can skittle even the strongest of us, and the classroom is ripe for all of them.

Outside of anxiety, it’s easy enough to believe that whatever happens, we’ll be okay, and if we’re not okay then we’ll cope with that too. When anxiety shows up, it runs a relentless and persuasive argument that every situation is a risky one – and embarrassment, failure, humiliation and shame all count as risk. Anxiety isn’t always rational but it’s real, and very persuasive. 

None of us can ‘go it alone’ and we all need the right support from the right people at the right time to discover the remarkable, fiercely capable, and sometimes wonderfully surprising parts of ourselves. That support will look different for everyone. Teachers play an enormously important role, and can make a long-lasting and profoundly positive difference in the life of any child. There will be few other adults outside of a child’s family, who will have so much influence in nurturing children towards the extraordinary humans they are all capable of becoming. It’s not easy though! All kids are different and what works brilliantly for one might be disastrous for another. Teachers do an amazing job, and the more information you are able to give them about your child, the more they will be able to work towards providing just the right environment to help your child or teen flourish.

If we could ask kids and teens with anxiety what they need in the classroom to help them be the best they can be, here are some things they might say. Not everything on the list will be important to every child, but sometimes even the smallest tweaks can go a long way to helping kids and teens with anxiety find the very best version of themselves. When any child is given the opportunity to explore and unfold their potential, it will shine a little more light into the world for all of us.

  1. The reason I don’t put my hand up isn’t always what you think …

    I wish you were able to see how many times I have the answer or something interesting to say, just perched on the edge of my lips, but then the thought of saying the wrong thing or looking silly, becomes bigger than the need to contribute. I wish it wasn’t like this – I’d love you to hear what I have to say – but for now, it’s just how it is. When I try to talk myself out of the fear, my anxiety lumbers in and talks louder … ‘Wait, what if you get it wrong.That would be awful. And so embarrassing. Everyone, including the teacher, will think you have no idea. Then there will be more attention and more questions and more of the teacher making sure you understand. Ugh. No way. Don’t do it. Leave your hand down. Seriously, whatever you do, don’t put your hand up. Just don’t.’ 

    What teachers can try instead: Kids and teens with anxiety will often find it easier to be involved when they are working in smaller groups, especially if they are with people they feel safe with. Let them find their voice in a small group first – it’s an important step to helping them find it in a bigger group later on.

  2. When you call on me unexpectedly, my mind goes blank.

    Putting me on the spot terrifies me, and shuts down anything thoughtful or interesting I have to say. My thinking brain taps out at the worst time and when it does, I have no words and I can’t think. I worry that the more it happens, the more it will happen. I want to be better with unpredictability, but it’s going to take time – not time for me to get it right, but time to feel safe enough to get it wrong.

    What to try instead: Anxiety has a way of stealing minds and voices at the worst time. When anxiety hits, it shuts down the pre-frontal cortex – the thinking, analysing, problem-solving part of the brain. If you’re going to call on a child or teen with anxiety, try to give them a warning and an opportunity to work out what to say first. Ask quietly for their thoughts and what they would like to add to the discussion. If they say something interesting, let them know, and then ask if they can share it with the class. Rather than being an experience that confirms how awful it is to speak in front of the class, it can become an opportunity for them to build their confidence and discover their influence.

  3. Small groups feel safer, and will bring out the best in me.

    I’m more likely to find my voice in a smaller group, especially if it’s with people I trust. It’s a way for me to experiment with sharing my ideas and trying new things, without being overwhelmed by the anxiety that comes with being in front of a big audience.

    What to try:  With anxious kids and teens, the safer they feel, the more they will surprise everyone with what they are capable of. Small groups can be a wonderful scaffold between anxious thoughts (‘I can’t do this’), and brave behaviour. Gently encourage them towards sharing with a bigger audience, perhaps as the speaker for the group, or performing something that has already been rehearsed in a smaller group.

  4. I know you want me to experience new people but …

    It might take a while for me to let you into my world, but when it happens, you’ll realise that I’m a pretty great human to be with – warm, friendly, funny … ok, now I’m blushing, but you get the idea. I know you think it’s important that I experience new people, but what’s even more important is that I have the opportunity to find out what I’m capable of. This is more likely to happen when I’m feeling safe.

    What to try: If the experience is going to be new or unfamiliar (camp, a performance) try to let any anxious kiddos be with at least one familiar person. Doing things with familiar people might seem like a very small step forward, or no step at all, but little steps are what the big ones are made of.

  5. I love it when you tell me my questions are good ones.

    I know you’re there to help me, but the thought of coming to you with a question can feel like roller skating up a glacier – very wobbly, not so safe, and best not done. I’ll often tell myself that if it was a good question, other people would be asking it. I’ll tend to convince myself that I’m better off figuring things out on my own. Sometimes I’ll think I have it figured out (because that’s what I need to believe) and I won’t even realise I’m on the wrong track. An anxious brain is a strong brain and I can talk myself out of all sorts of things, especially the need to ask questions. 

    What to try: Let them know their questions are good ones. As well as this, quietly checking in sometimes will make it easier for anxious kids and teens to let you know if they need a hand. And while we’re on questions …

  6. Question time makes questions easier.

    It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me that I can ask questions whenever I want to, choosing the right time to do that feels too big and messy sometimes. Am I interrupting you? Are you too busy? Am I wasting everyone’s time? Should I wait? Should I already know the answer? See – so confusing!

    What to try: Setting aside specific time for questions can make asking questions easier. This will put more certainty around the right time to ask, and stifle some of the ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ hesitation.

  7. Feeling normal is a lovely thing to feel.

    If you can help people (and me) realise that anxiety is just a version of what we all feel from time to time, it will help me to feel more understood, less alone, and more okay with where I’m at. Sometimes feeling different is a great thing to feel, but when the different thing is anxiety, it can feel a bit rubbish. It makes a difference to know that you get it.

    What to try: Anything you can do to normalise anxiety, will help anxious kiddos feel as though they are in strong, safe hands. Chat to the class about what anxiety is. Explain that it’s something we all get it from time to time, (before an exam, sport, a performance) but that some people get it a lot. Let the class know that anxiety can feel like a big deal when you’re going through it, but it’s actually a sign that someone is about to do something really brave – and that brave is whatever feels brave for them.

  8. There is so much more to me than what you see.

    Until I feel safe and comfortable, people will only see the fringes of me. I don’t deliberately put myself away, it’s just the way I am, and it’s not something I need to change – ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you I’m pretty excellent the way I am. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve seen everything I have to give, or that you know what I’m capable of. I don’t even know what I’m capable of yet, but I know I can do difficult things, and surprising things – I just need to feel safe enough to explore. 

    What to try:  Kids with anxiety are often no trouble at all, so it can be easy to overlook them or to assume they are giving everything they have to give. They might be giving everything, but there might also be more they are keeping back. Stay curious about their potential, and gently keep stretching them at their edges. So many times they will be capable of more than they are giving, but their anxiety about getting it wrong, or looking silly will hold them back. They key is asking for just enough – not too much, and not too little. 

  9. I don’t want to be indulged. I want to feel safe.

    We all have things that can help us feel safe, understood and capable. We also all have things that can make us feel stretched, frightened, and anxious. For me, these things will push to the surface a little more often at school, given that it’s the place where I’ll be experimenting with new things, discovering my edges, and exploring the unfamiliar. I don’t expect to be given special treatment or extra attention. In fact, attention is something I’d generally like to steer clear of. It’s just that there are things that will make it easier for me to show you what I can do.

    What to try: Connection is important for all kids, especially anxious ones. The safer they feel, the easier it will be for them to explore, experiment and take the risks that will help them to discover what they are capable of. Your relationship with them is key to helping them feel safe, so when you can, work on that. Casually ask them about their weekend, any of their extra-curricular activities, their pets, or anything else that seems to be important to them – but don’t ask in front of the class. They might only give you a word or two to start with, and it might feel uncomfortable for a while, but good things take time and the effort will be worth it.

  10. Please don’t bring attention to me.

    I love being noticed, but being the centre of attention can feel terrifying. This is whether it’s being called on in class, or being praised in front of everyone for something I did well.

    What to try: Anything that puts anxious kids or teens squarely in the centre of attention can feel overwhelming. Instead, go for gentle acknowledgement by letting them know when you’re pleased or when they’ve done something well. 

  11. If I freeze, don’t make a big deal of it.

    Sometimes when anxiety hits I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to do. It freezes me. It can make me look unprepared, or as though I don’t have the answers you’re looking for, but that’s not how it is. Everything I need is in me – the answers, the words, the movement – but anxiety can steal it for a while.

    What to try: If kids or teens freeze at the start of a performance or during one, or when they are called on in class, don’t make a big deal of it. Anything you can do to downplay it, normalise it and help them find a safe space (by inviting them to sit back down for a while or to take a moment) will make you someone kind of wonderful. Then, give them the opportunity to start again when they’re ready.

  12. Sometimes my anxiety blocks out what you’re saying.

    What you’re saying is important and I want to understand it, but when you’re talking to me, sometimes all I can think to myself is ‘don’t say the wrong thing, don’t do the wrong thing’ – oh the noise gets noisier. This means that sometimes I’m so worried about not making a mistake, that I don’t hear anything you say. I’m not meaning to be rude or inattentive – I hate the thought that anyone might think I’m doing that, but sometimes wanting to avoid doing the wrong thing lands me somewhere in the thick of it.

    What to try: When you can, check that your instructions have been heard correctly, and avoid getting frustrated, annoyed or upset if you have to repeat them. Anxious kids and teens aren’t asking for anything more than anyone else – lots of other kids in the class will need things explained or the instructions repeated. For anxious kids though, it will make a difference if you can initiate the check for understanding, just until there is enough safety established for them the lead.

  13. Understand that anxiety is masterful at looking like something else.

    Sometimes when I’m anxious, I feel angry, fierce or furious. I don’t mean to be disruptive or to cause any trouble. I wish I didn’t do this too.
    Why it happens: Anxiety is fight or flight, and sometimes the ‘fight’ part can take over. When this happens, it can drive tantrums, aggression or meltdowns.
    What to try: Know that the behaviour will stop as soon as the anxiety passes. You might be tempted in the moment to talk about consequences, but if the behaviour is being driven by anxiety, it will only make it worse. Leave any discussions of consequences until after things have calmed down. 

    When I’m anxious, I’m being drive by a brain that thinks it needs to energise me for fight or flight. This can make me hyperactive, wriggly, bouncy or jittery – but I never mean to be disruptive.
    Why it happens: When the brain senses any sort of danger it will surge the body with a mix of neurochemicals designed to ready the body for physical action (fight or flight). Sometimes if there’s no need to fight or flee, the excess energy might come out in excessive physical movement.
    What to try: If the hyperactivity is being driven by anxiety, it will pass as soon as the anxiety does. In the meantime, physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response, so anything physical will also help to neutralise the surging of neurochemicals and bring calm. If something is happening that’s causing a few kiddos in the class to be jittery and bouncy, try inviting the whole class runs on the spot for a quick minute to calm the mood.

    Sometimes I’ll burst into tears, but not because I’m sad. It might seem as though it’s happening for no reason at all. This can be confusing to me too.
    Why it happens: Sometimes anxiety can look like tears. Lots of tears. This happens because the amygdala, the part of the brain that drives anxiety, also drives emotion. When the amygdala is at full volume (as it is during anxiety), emotions will also be at full volume.
    What to do: Understand that sometimes, tears can driven by anxiety more than sadness. When that happens, rather than trying to understand what’s driving the tears, just be a strong steady presence until the anxiety settles. If you can, try to encourage strong, deep breathing. This will activate the relaxation response, which will help to neutralise the surging of neurochemicals that come with anxiety.

  14. Remember what I’m here for.

    I’m here to learn and to grow. Confidence, independence and resilience are all important too, and I have plenty of potential for all of that in me, but first I’m here to learn. The easier and safer that feels, the easier it will be to build everything else.

    What to try: Don’t force independence, friendships, confidence, resilience. Kids and teens with anxiety are pushing themselves all the time, even if you don’t always see it. They already have everything they need inside them to be amazing humans. It will unfold, grow and strengthen when they feel safe.

  15. Let me know that you get it.

    I know I’m not the only one with anxiety, but when it hits it can feel like I’m the only person on the planet that has to push through the days with anxiety in the way.

    What to try: Let me know that I’m doing okay. If you can notice some of the great things about me, that will help me to feel as though you’re on my team. If I freeze, forget, need you to repeat things, let me know that you understand that it’s not my fault, and that it’s okay. Then let me try it again.

  16. Details. I love them. As many as you can give me.

    Wherever you can, give me as much detail as you can so I can have as much clarity as possible. One of the worst things you can do, for example, is ask me to come and see you at lunchtime on Monday – when it’s Friday. It just means I’ll worry all weekend about what you might need to talk to me about. Instead, let me know what it’s about, or at least let me know that it’s not anything bad. Anxiety will always make me think of the worst possible scenario first. It can be a beast like that.

    What to try: Wherever you can, fill in the unknowns so there is no room for an anxious kiddo to fill them in with something worse.

And finally …

Kids and teens with anxiety have remarkable strengths that the world needs more of. Often, unless you’re one of the ones they feel safe with, you’ll only see the tip of what they are capable of. School and learning was never meant to be about how outgoing kids are, or confident they are in initiating contact with an adult. Greatness is built bit by bit, and the foundations are strongest when it’s safe. Anything you can do to help this along will go a long way to helping anxious kids and teens find their own important way to shine. The more we can help them to feel that they are stronger, braver, better, bigger and more powerful than anything that they are scared of, the more we can open up the world to them, and in turn, they will open up their very wonderful world to us.

You might also like …

‘Hey Warrior’ is the book I’ve written for children to help them understand anxiety and to find their ‘brave’. It explains why anxiety feels the way it does, and it will teach them how they can ‘be the boss of their brains’ during anxiety, to feel calm. It’s not always enough to tell kids what to do – they need to understand why it works. Hey Warrior does this, giving explanations in a fun, simple, way that helps things make sense in a, ‘Oh so that’s how that works!’ kind of way, alongside gorgeous illustrations.


Jake F

This was so wonderfully written! It is written in a way that drives home the message that all students have so much to give the world, so much beauty, wonder, talent, resilience, intelligence, and potential inside them….but for some there are recurring thoughts and feelings that are discouraging and disparaging inside them that inhibits the giving of those wonderful, unique gifts…but luckily if given enough patience, encouragement, and respect those anxious students will in time deliver the best and most unique version of themselves that the world needs and awaits.

Alice C

It’s interesting to know that group work is still something that a person with anxiety can benefit from as long as the group is small. I’m considering to enroll my kid in an online high school next year if there are no significant changes to the status of the current pandemic. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be a very stressful environment for her since.

ann j

help my son has adhd and anxiety. it has come to the stage now where if he leaves the house he feels sick and his heart starts beating fast (panic attack) maybe , im not sure. he is 12 years old. i have tried explaining this to the school as he is in a school that deals with behavioral issues, but all i get is the education board on my back. school do seem to be interested, what can i do, also he is already on medication.

Kersten B

I am so glad I stumbled across this article. I started crying because it described me as a child, except I was the quiet shy type…never acted out in anyway. The reason I am researching is my son struggles with anxiety. We have done counseling but it’s not enough. These children need more than just talking to. I feel like they need to be talked through situations when they are the thick of it to show them how to cope and get through these struggles. My sons new 5th grade teacher yells at the kids if they don’t have their hands raised with an answer to a question. The 2nd day of school she made a remark… “Only 4 of you know the answer to this question!” Only 4 children had their hands raised. How belittling!! She is turning my sons life upside down and inside out. He has been in tears now 2 days in a row. I called the school and am going to meet with the principal. I will not put up with this behavior from a teacher. I feel I’m doing the right thing. We have to stand up for our children.

Karen Young

Kersten you are doing the right thing. When children are anxious, the brain locks up and they cannot learn. One of the most important things a teacher can do is to create and environment of safety. The connection with that teacher is a powerful way to do that. Some teachers are so amazing and they have enormous capacity to change young lives for the better. They will find independence and resilience, but first, safety, and this happens most profoundly in the context of safe, calm, respectful relationships between the teacher and the child.


This has really helped me realize why i am how i am in lessons and what i want from my teachers in order to really do well in school. As a child of my age i really struggle with anxiety in school and i wish my school would see this website and i know that this would help all of the kids in my school with anxiety. I think that schools are putting too much pressure on children and they don’t understand why this scares us so much. Please do an article about how the punishment system and grading system cause anxious children to feel worried. As i looked through the comments the majority of the comments were made by adults and i just wanted to point out that from a child’s point of view this page is extremely relatable and if all teachers did this, school life would be made so much easier. Thank you so much for writing this page it makes me feel understood and that is an amazing feeling.

Melissa P.

My youngest daughter is nine and I could read this article in her voice. It brought tears to my eyes because she is struggling so much in her class of 25 children, and she has convinced herself she is incapable of anything — and everyone who knows her knows this isn’t true. I’m going to send this to her teacher, who is wonderful and working with us on this. Thank you for this article. It is wonderful.


This is undoubtedly a piece which illustrates how easily behavioural traits in children can be easily misdiagnosed. The teachers think my “bad” 5 year old boy is somewhere on the ASD with a tendency towards the Asperger’s side- i have maintained from day 1 that he is highly strung and needs a more sympathetic ear and this article reinforces EVERYTHING I’ve been saying. Thank you, i shall be passing this on to the teachers to help show he is full of worries and high self-demands.


This was me as a child. School was so painful, and while some teachers understood and worked to create a safe space for me, others definitely did not understand.
I am now a middle school teacher and also a mom to an 8th grader who suffers from anxiety so this is all very near to my heart.
Thank you so much for writing this article. It is spot on.


Thank you for your advice, and recognition. As I teacher I think it is important that the students and staff alike in schools understand the different manifestations of anxiety, and how to support. I have experienced every one of these situations with different students, and over time they’ve come to allow me to support them. This has allowed me to see their many talents and strengths of character. Through their talents and interests I can design lessons and tasks that they are more confident contributing to – meaning my anxious students can enjoy their lessons.

It is important to remember that there will be good days and bad days. But everyday is a fresh start. And our students deserve the support to allow them to make the most of opportunities.

So thank you for writing this article. The more people that understand anxiety, the more people able to support those with anxiety.


This is SO good… so so so good!
The difference it makes when you have a school or teacher who even tries to understand even half of these things is SO huge and so empowering.
Thank you so much for writing this!

Karen Young

Thanks so much Kate! You are so right about teachers. The influence they can have is massive – they can make such an amazingly positive difference.


Very informative article. I’ve read everything I can find on anxiety and depression for my 16 year old daughter who’s anxiety started expressing itself at age 5. Just when I think we’ve taken a step forward she takes 2 steps back. We’ve learned to celebrate even the smallest progress, maybe she’ll never be ‘cured’.

Karen Young

The key with anxiety is to aim for turning it down, rather than completely turning it off. Your daughter might always be vulnerable to anxiety, but by doing the things described in the article, she can strengthen and protect herself against anxiety being such an intrusion. It’s so wonderful and important that you are able to acknowledge and celebrate the little steps – they really matter. Think of it like drops in a bucket – you might not notice the difference at first, but after a while it all adds up to make a noticeable difference.


Thank you for this article it is amazing .This is my son and I have been trying for 4 years to get my son’s school to understand it will defiantly be printed of and given to teacher I just hope they take it in

Karen Young

Heidi I’m so pleased the article was helpful. Anxiety can be confusing for people who haven’t experienced it or who don’t quite understand it, but teachers can make a wonderful difference when they have a greater understanding of how anxiety can play out in the classroom. I hope your son gets the understanding he deserves, in ways that can help him thrive at school.


Fantastic article! We all know a teacher’s job isn’t easy and they’re doing their best so this could be a great read for anyone looking for small ways to do things that can make a big difference. I love the last paragraph where you note that school and learning aren’t about how outgoing kids are – too true and, sadly, sometimes forgotten.


As a parent of a highly anxious child, but also as a teacher, this article is really good at outlining how kids with anxiety feel. I try very hard to make my classroom a safe and welcoming space. That said, reading this has helped me to see that there is more I can do to make it better. Thank you

Karen Young

Thanks Janet. We are learning all the time about what works and what doesn’t, but the information doesn’t mean anything unless there are open minds to receive it. Thank you for being open to the information.


Is there a book for teens, or is the above book ok for older kids?
The above scenarios mirror exactly those described to me by my 15yr old daughter and it’s a shame all teacher don’t have access to this knowledge.

Karen Young

There isn’t a separate book for teens at the moment, but this book will explain the processes – they are the same in kids and teens (and adults. Here is an article that might help your daughter.


Brilliant article Karen, I often refer to your work when working in this field with parents and children here in the UK
Thank you


Your words are so perfect I plan to share your article with all of my anxious son’s teachers and counselors! Thank you for articulating what I have observed and felt for years. Well done! Linda


We did inform the school of my daughters problems, but they didn’t listen.
When the anxiety and depression got worse and we started missing days, then weeks and finally got signed off sick by CAMHS.
I know we were lucky to get seen by CAMHS caused by awful problems and wanting to kill herself. CAMHS don’t listen either 🙁
Now we have the school saying she needs to go back full time! She is scared stiff of males because of something that happened to her. We go to meetings but they won’t now allow her to take a dog, because it isn’t an assistance dog, but you can’t get dogs for anxiety from what I have been told.
At the last meeting they reduced her to tears and continued on, she stated she wanted to kill herself, still continued going on. Very sad that they can’t have more compassion. How much longer will you be off they said, her answer I don’t know, how long is a piece of string? They didn’t like that answer from a 14 year old!
Some schools are good but her’s is not 🙁

Karen Young

It can be difficult for people who have never had anxiety to understand how much it can intrude and how difficult it can make seemingly easy things. There are some great schools out there, and many wonderful teachers. I’m sorry your daughter’s experience is so different – she deserves compassion and understanding. Keep advocating for her – hopefully they will come to understand.


This article is amazing and you have described both of my children to a tea , I have trouble getting their teachers to understand , make them feel safe and help them thrive. I was wondering if you could please email me this article so I could print it out for them? I have given them other hand outs but I feel they seem too busy to listen. I have a hard time getting my children to school and that’s only the first battle of the day , my heart breaks for them and I really don’t know what to do . I have tried psychologists and am trying different things like brave charts and encouragements but I have had no progress. I have researched and continuously read journals and fantastic articles like yours but I feel I don’t have any support for my children who are suffering everyday to cope. If you know of any support groups ,anxiety work shops or anything that could help I would love to know. I live in Melbourne and am really hard pressed to find anything . Thank you in advance.

Karen Young

It sounds as though you are a wonderful support for your children. To print the article, there is a print button in the list of share buttons. It’s the green button (that drawing is meant to be a printer). On a desktop, laptop the share buttons are at the left hand side. On a mobile, the share buttons are behind the grey ‘Share this’ button at the bottom of the page. I’ll email it to you anyway – just in case.


Thank you Karen 🙂 , hopefully we will get the word out about these wonderful ,empathetic , well behaved amazing children and how they matter too even if they don’t make a peep!

Wow Heidi ! That is really sad your son feels that way but I am so glad to hear from you , maybe we could swap ideas ? I hope your child’s teacher understands ,my heart goes out to these children . I am really stuck and just have contacted the education department to see if I can get any action? I will keep posted if you like 🙂


Hi Anne – Marie I also live in Melbourne and I have the same problems with my 10 year old son I can’t get him to school either it breaks your heart as a mother sometimes to send them this article is the first time I will able to take to his teacher and say please read and understand.
My son goes to a school that has a good reputation but barley acknowledges mental health issues and have given me no help at all .
So I understand you


My son has ADHD – diagnosed 2 years ago – however from reading widely on the subject and observations of my little guy the penny dropped that he has anxiety that he expresses via aggression, defiance and hyper actions – shouting punching in the air throwing things and so on. These articles are so insightful and helpful in understanding what’s going on with my child and how to help him. Gratitude from me to all who contribute.


Thank you for the article. My daughter has severe anxiety and struggles with it every day. We have been working with several medical professionals getting her the help she needs. Unfortunately this started in middle school (possibly before) and the teachers made her middle school years a horrible experience for her. She is a sophomore in high school and is really trying hard to cope and deal with this anxiety issue. I wish we had seen the warning signs earlier.

Parents I give you a word of advice; if primary and elementary school teachers say your child is very quiet and doesn’t talk much or at all in class, take note! My daughter was the quiet, shy type. Never got in trouble or had any discipline problems. She was always at school, but didn’t interact much in class. She had good grades and almost perfect attendance until sixth grade. One of the teachers (a female) started “picking” on a few of the quiet girls in class, which led to other teachers doing the same. After Christmas break, my daughter began not wanting to go to school or feeling sick. It got worse and worse and that’s when we realized there was a problem with anxiety and with some of the teachers causing a lot of the anxiety with our child.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not teacher bashing or against teachers at all. My Dad was an educator and a dang good one. There are a lot of really good teachers out there. Unfortunately, my daughter had several that were terrible and were the cause of a lot of her and our problems.

Pay attention to your children! If you are reading these articles, I’m pretty sure you do already. You may have a child who has or is experiencing the same issues. Get them the help they need and read every article, book, material, you can find to help them. I feel terrible for anyone who is going through this debilitating issue. You have my prayers and I ask for prayers for my daughter as well. Thanks!


take you for your comment about teachers not thinking through when the child is quiet. My heart was shuttered to pieces today when I got a call from school about an incident with my 8 year old beautiful girl. Suddenly a penny dropped reading this article, all the recent tantrums, meltdowns and tears; not being able to decide what to wear to school, sudden fear of flying, hair not right, food not right stomach aches Oh my God! I am crying..


Thank you, this is such a helpful article that I will share with my son’s school.


Thank you for including the aggression and hyperactivity part and the not hearing instructions. While all of the elements you’ve highlighted are important, I just think this one has such a negative side and impacts usually more than just the child with the anxiety. As well, many people don’t often associate this with anxiety, and think the child is just “bad”.

Karen Young

Yes I agree. The aggression and hyperactivity that can come with anxiety is often misunderstood. I wish more people would see that there are no ‘bad’ kids. If a child is struggling, there’s a reason.


Good Stuff. This helps me understand myself as a child and also deal with those around me that are experiencing anxiety. Lots of validation in this article. I think all of us have anxiety at some level. And, you know what, I just think it’s how we are made – human beings. More reasons to be gentle with each other.

Karen Young

Well said Lori. We all experience anxiety on some level. We have to otherwise we’d be dead. It’s our ‘early warning signal’ that something might not be right. It’s a warning, not a prediction. The difference between normal levels of anxiety and clinical levels is the impact, frequency, intensity and duration of the intrusion of the anxiety into day to day life.


That article made me realize exactly who I was as a child and how I can be more patient with one of my own children.

Most appreciated


As a kid I did ‘freeze’ when I was called on. In college I didn’t like that feeling of being called on. Too afraid I would answer wrong. I still have it in the workplace with meetings.. And I’m starting not to like social gatherings as well…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our newsletter

We would love you to follow us on Social Media to stay up to date with the latest Hey Sigmund news and upcoming events.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

The point of any ‘discipline’ is to teach, not to punish. (‘Disciple’ means student, follower, learner.)

Children don’t learn through punishment. They comply through punishment, but the mechanism is control and fear. 

The problem with this, is that the goal becomes avoiding us when things go wrong, rather than seeking us out. We can’t influence them if we’ve taught them to keep their messes hidden from us. 

We can’t guide our kiddos if they aren’t open to us, and they won’t be open to us if they are scared of what we will do. 

We all have an instinctive need to stay relationally safe. This means feeling free from rejection, shame, humiliation. The problem with traditional discipline is that it rejects and judges the child, rather than the behaviour. 

Hold them close, reject their behaviour. 

This makes it more likely that they will turn toward us instead of away from us. It opens the way for us to guide, lead, teach. It makes it safe for them to turn and face what’s happened so they can learn what they might do differently in the future.

Rather than, ‘How do I scare them out of bad behaviour?’ try, ‘How do I help them to do better next time?’ 

Is the way you respond to their messy decisions or behaviour more likely to drive them away from you in critical times or towards you? Let it be towards you.

This doesn’t mean giving a free pass on big behaviour. It means rather than leading through fear and shame, we lead through connection, conversation and education. 

The ‘consequence’ for big behaviour shouldn’t be punishment to make them feel bad, but the repairing of any damage so they can feel the good in who they are. It’s the conversation with you where they turn and face their behaviour. This will always be easier when they feel you loving them, and embracing who they are, even when you reject what they do.♥️
#parent #parents #mindfulparenting #gentleparenting
Kununurra I’m so excited to be with you tonight. I’ll be giving you super practical ways to strengthen your kiddos and teens against all sorts and all levels of anxiety - big anxiety, little anxiety, anxiety about school, separation, trying new things - all of it. You’ll walk away with things you can do tonight - and I can’t wait! Afterwards we’ll have time for a chat where we can dive into your questions (my favourite part). This is a free event organised by the Parenting Connection WA (I love this organisation so much!). The link for tickets is in my story♥️
Hello Broome! Can’t wait to see you tonight. Tickets still available. The link is in my story. 

Thank you Parenting Connection WA for bringing me here and for the incredible work you do to support and strengthen families.♥️
What a weekend! Thank you Sydney for your open hearts, minds and arms this weekend at @resilientkidsconference. Your energy and warmth were everything.♥️
I LOVE being able to work with early childhood centres and schools. The most meaningful, enduring moments of growth and healing happen on those everyday moments kids have with their everyday adults - parents, carers, teachers. It takes a village doesn’t it.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This