October Scaries: The School Struggle

This October, we’re focusing on common fears and anxieties treated at Compassionate Counseling St. Louis. This week - school avoidance! Super common, super treatable, but it does seem to become a pretty stuck fear because the longer you avoid doing something, the more you reinforce not doing it.

As an anxious kid, teen, or college student, it makes total sense that you would want to avoid school.

Anxious minds tell us about all the bad things that could potentially happen, and schools are rife with possibilities when it comes to catastrophe. Just off the top of my head, you could worry about:

  • Missing your mom and dad

  • Getting a bad grade

  • People talking bad about you

  • People not wanting to play with you

  • Getting in trouble

  • Having a teacher yell at you

  • Making a silly mistake

  • Hearing a super loud fire drill

  • Getting kidnapped on your walk home

  • Forgetting all of your homework

  • Taking a test

And on and on and on…

Those fears are legion - and as soon as you feel like you vanquish one school fear foe, another one can come up and take its place.

With all that in mind, of course it feels easier to stay at home.

Unfortunately, the longer you wait to get to school, the more and more challenging it will be to actually cross that threshold and deal with anxiety at school.

But we have to take that first step. And we can!

9 times out of 10, our brains are going to tell us something much worse than is actually likely to happen.

Yes, you could have a pop quiz in class today - but even if you get a bad grade, it’s not very likely that you’ll flunk the class and your grade and get stuck repeating this year all over again.

Yes, it could actually be true that nobody in school likes you. And at the same time, it’s probably not 100% true. Can you name one person who says hello to you? Can you think of anyone who doesn’t complain when you sit next to them at lunch? What about your teacher or the school counselor?

Yes, you could even get kidnapped on the way home from school. It’s true! But it’s not super likely. Look up the kidnapping statistics in your area - how often does it happen? Where does it happen? You’ll find that a lot of kidnappings happen from somebody that kid knows. And even if you did get kidnapped, how could you deal with it? What would your parents do?

First we try logic.

Logically, what is most likely to occur? What’s something more helpful we could say instead?

Next, try some ways to calm down our bodies.

Taking deep breaths, tensing and relaxing your muscles, or even something as simple as coloring a mandala can help us to calm down and think more clearly.

Then ask yourself… what’s a small first step I can take?

Even if the scary things happen. Even if it’s difficult to calm down. What’s the first step to getting you back to school? Gradually, a little bit at a time, we can figure out what’s doable. And the more regularly you attend school, the less strong those school scaries will feel.

From preschool anxiety to your first day at college, school anxiety can get in the way. But you get to decide how much control it has over you.

Dealing with school anxiety? Is your child avoiding grade school? Does your college student cringe whenever it’s a new semester? School anxiety is super common and treatable. Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids, teens and college students. Seh works in Clayton, MO and sees kids and teens throughout University City, Ladue, Creve Couer, Town and Country, and surrounding St. Louis areas. You can reach her at kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com or 314-339-7640 to hear if counseling is the best next step for you or your child.