School Anxiety and Stress

The start of a new school year brings many things, including school anxiety and stress. Statistics on school and mental health compiled by indicate that almost half of all American children meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, and among those kids, anxiety is the most common. School anxiety and stress are causing problems for many of our kids and adolescents.

School Anxiety and Stress are Real

It's common for children and teens to experience school anxiety and stress. School anxiety and stress are very real. Read on to see what school anxiety is like.As a former teacher, counselor, and current parent of two teens, I’ve had ample opportunities to see that the stress and school anxiety children and adolescents experience is very real. Sometimes well-meaning adults, hoping to help reduce school anxiety, brush off young people’s stress, dismissing it as “just nerves” or “simply reading into something.” A relatively common misconception is that only adults can be overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, but kids are too young to fully experience these conditions. Minimizing a child’s stress, though, doesn’t make it go away.

School is a child’s primary world. It’s where he or she spends most waking hours, and it involves navigating an entire, complicated system that consists of adults, children, learning, eating, being, doing, and interacting. No wonder a significant portion of children and adolescents experience substantial stress and school anxiety.

What School Anxiety and Stress Can Look Like

Delaney (name changed) was scared and reserved. Her parents and teacher reported that this second-grader had vague physical complaints: stomachaches, headaches, and aches and pains plagued her day and night, but doctors could find nothing wrong. She refused to interact with other kids, and she barely spoke at all the entire time she was at school. Delaney experienced so much stress and anxiety at school that she withdrew from the experience and turned inward.

Timothy (name changed) loved being the class clown. He enjoyed disrupting classes, especially when he was supposed to be working or taking tests. He seemed proud of his poor grades. While he wasn’t classified completely as a bully, his definition of fun included picking on people here and there. He hung around with lots of people and appeared social, but in reality, he didn’t feel close to anyone. When a group of people passed him after school without acknowledgement, he shrugged it off with a grin, wadded up the homework packet he was carrying, threw it at a random kid, and schlepped home.

Can School Anxiety and Stress be Treated?

The above examples are based on real students experiencing real anxiety. Each one is unique, drastically different from the other. School anxiety is real, and students of all ages experience stress. However, there are differences in how each individual manifests it.

Despite this, identifying and treating anxiety in school-age kids is possible. Identifying anxiety in students of all ages can help those students and the adults in their lives work as a team to beat it. School anxiety and stress exist, but they don’t have to limit kids’ lives.

In the next several posts, I’ll address school anxiety in different age groups. Tune in next week for a video discussing tips for helping kids with school anxiety.


Help Kids, Teens Manage School Anxiety with These Strategies


You can also connect with Tanya J. Peterson on her website,Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2015, August 20). School Anxiety and Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

James Stordahl
September, 7 2015 at 11:58 am

As a 6-year school bus driver I see the full range of mood swings throughout the school year...I am not sure that the teachers see the same child that comes and goes on the school bus...I believe that driver input is needed when discussing bullying. #jimthebusdriver

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 7 2015 at 5:32 pm

Hello James,
I'm so glad you shared this insight because it needs to be heard. I couldn't agree with you more that the input of bus drivers should be actively sought out and heeded. The school system is just that -- a system. It consists of everyone in the child's life. Everyone in the system is a valuable part of kids' lives, and when key parts of the whole are forgotten or left out, there's a gap left. It needs to be filled! Keep speaking up, #jimthebusdriver.

Dr Musli Ferati
September, 4 2015 at 2:53 am

Thanks Ms Peterson, for your smart and critic observation to my comment on your topical article. Great regards!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2015 at 10:58 am

Great regards to you, too! I always enjoy your wise commentary.

Dr Musli Ferati
September, 3 2015 at 2:10 am

School as complex psycho-social milieu exhibits an intrigued life experience with many positive and negative aspect of healthy development of global bio-psycho-social integrity to every child or adolescent subject. In addition, the age of childhood is in accelerate psycho-physic development with fragile and subtle mental and somatic traits. On the other hand school indicates perplex interpersonal relations, which ones have great impact on maturity of personality. These two and many others emotional perturbations of pupils and students during process of education have got substantial repercussion on definitive shaping of personal, emotional, occupational, academic, cognitive and interpersonal characteristics of adult subject. Against positive role of school, there are many stressful moments in multi-axial relationships that damage emotional statement of delicate mental system of yang people. The first one is anxiety that may disturb profoundly the normal mental development with irreparable consequences for adulthood person. So, it is important to observe and follow up each mood deviation of child, which one take part on daily functioning through disorder of conduction. Furthermore, child and adolescent mental disorders have got specific and hidden signs and symptoms which mimic different somatic complaints. Therefore it ought to be careful to any change and complaint of ours child during age of schooling. This imply the necessity to support and respect emotional and interpersonal problems, which ones torment pupils and students, as well.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 3 2015 at 1:39 pm

Hello Dr. Ferati,
Both the school environment and the "internal environment" of kids/teens are definitely varied and complex. And changing! Both the school environment and developmental stage of children are in constant flux, and mixed in with that are other aspects of the child's environment. You make a great point in mentioning the importance of monitoring change in kids. Each child is unique in how he/she manifests stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, plus kids display symptoms differently in different developmental stages. By knowing our kids and noticing changes, we can be on top of problems and help them with things like school anxiety.

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