Should I Homeschool My Child with Anxiety?

Looking back on my daughter’s life, there were many signs that she was a child with anxiety. I just didn’t know enough at the time to recognize it.

Should I Homeschool my Child with Anxiety

Things like never wanting to be separated from me, hiding behind my back in social situations, and having difficulty going to bed at night were a constant in our life. I chalked them up to the phase most toddlers go through, except they didn’t go away.

It wasn’t until she was close to school age that I started thinking this might be more than a phase. I started researching and learning everything I could until I finally realized what it was.

Fortunately, we were already homeschoolers, so the decision to send her to school or not wasn’t one we had to make.

Maybe you have a child with anxiety, and they’re in the public school. Have you wondered whether it would be better to homeschool? Would your child benefit from being home with you and not having to deal with the stress every day?

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What Are the Common Types of Anxiety?

Before I get into whether homeschooling might be a better option, let’s talk about the different anxiety disorders.

Anxiety can be separated into different categories. There are six types most commonly found in children. Below is an explanation of each so you get a better understanding.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Does your child worry about a lot of different things? It might be over something at school, a sibling or other family member, a friend, or activities they’re involved in and can be very intense.

All this worry can result in them being tired, unable to sleep, having trouble focusing, and even being irritable. It can show up at different times and last for months. This is considered a generalized anxiety disorder.

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks can happen to anxious kids. These can occur often, which causes more stress worrying about having them.

The symptoms can range from dizziness, trembling, chest pain, shortness of breath, racing heart, vomiting, nausea, or cold and hot sensations, all of which can make them fear they are dying or going crazy.

Panic attacks can happen suddenly and last for several minutes. They’re very scary to a child and can make them feel embarrassed and want to avoid certain situations in case one happens.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

As I mentioned earlier, when my daughter didn’t want to be separated from me, I thought it was normal behavior. Many toddlers between the ages of one and three do this but eventually grow out of it. It’s when they continue past that age that they consider it separation anxiety.

These children go beyond the normal feeling of not wanting to be away from a parent or other important person in their life. The child worries this person may die or not return. It feels very real and is so strong they may not want to attend school or even go to a friend’s house.

My daughter didn’t even want to go to lunch with her father and grandfather because she didn’t want to be away from me for an hour for fear something would happen to me.

This disorder can cause physical symptoms like nausea or headaches and can be stressful for the whole family, not just the child.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that really interferes with a child’s daily life.

Children with OCD have constant thoughts (or images) that come to mind and they can’t get rid of them. The only way to make themselves feel better is to perform certain actions (compulsions) to stop their obsessive thoughts that something bad is going to happen.

Unfortunately, when they do the actions, it feeds the OCD and only gives temporary relief for a few seconds. It’s a loop that keeps repeating. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social situations are intimidating for a lot of children, but to a child with a social anxiety disorder, it’s much more intense.

They don’t enjoy being the center of attention (even at their own birthday party), being called on by the teacher, or speaking to others. 

They’ll show symptoms of crying, trying to find a place to get away from all the people, wanting to leave, having a tantrum, or clinging to their parents. They’ll often try to avoid these types of situations altogether.  

How Anxiety Can Affect Your Child’s Learning

When I was 8 years old, we were living with my grandparents while my parents were building our house. Both my parents worked full-time, and it was my grandmother who saw me off in the morning. The school was close by, so I walked.

I can remember being sick to my stomach about being in a different school, having new teachers, and meeting no friends. I couldn’t pay attention to anything that was being taught. I just knew I wanted to go home! 

By the time recess rolled around, it was all I could take. I would get so nervous that I would wait until no one was looking and then run home!

Of course, the school caught on to me and let my parents know. They both put a stop to it, and I eventually adjusted and was fine.

I think we’ve all felt anxious over things as a kid, but once we got used to it, we were back to normal. This is nothing compared to what kids with anxiety feel. It’s much more intense and is a constant in their lives

Forcing these children to stay in a stressful situation does not relieve it. They must learn strategies and practice using them. It takes time and can’t be rushed.

Homeschool Could be the Answer

I personally feel that homeschooling has been the right situation for my daughter. Sending her to school would be a daily stressor in her life, and I don’t believe she could concentrate on her schoolwork at all. She would make herself physically ill and be exhausted by the end of each day.

Does that mean we hide her away at home and never deal with it? No! 

What it means is I can choose when, where, and how often we’re going to expose her to situations she’s uncomfortable with. I have taken classes on how to work with her and we do what’s called exposures and other therapeutic treatments to help her overcome her anxiety.

We take breaks when it’s too much. I give a gentle nudge in the right direction when she needs motivation. 

I’m not there to shelter her, but to give her the support to take risks when I know she can handle it or a hug when she’s had too much and needs a calm reassurance that will help her get up and try again.

The Positives of Teaching a Child with Anxiety at Home

  • Decreases Anxiety Levels– Having your child in fewer stressful situations is going to decrease their anxiety levels. When they’re in a constant state of turmoil, it taxes the body and can lead to further health problems and cause more mental health difficulties. Homeschooling lets you control the environment and when to expose them to the situations that cause episodes.
  • Focus on Your Child’s Strengths- Homeschooling allows you to see your child in many situations and discover the positive things they can do and focus on those. These kids often have very low self-esteem and need to hear they’re worthy and have positive qualities and abilities.
  • Better Bonding with Your Child- Understanding what your child is going through and working alongside them to help can create a bond and trust you may not get when they’re away from home for most of the day.

The Negatives of Teaching a Child with Anxiety at Home

  • Can Take Time from the Other Children- Having a child with anxiety can sometimes mean giving them more attention than the other children. This can be tough when you’re in the middle of school. This is something to be aware of and to have ways for your kids to work independently when you need to attend to your anxious child. Also, make a point to spend some extra time with each one individually. 
  • It’s Easier to Ignore- Having an anxious child is tough! One thing parents need to be careful of is the trap of putting off dealing with their child’s anxiety because they’re tired or busy. This is easy to do when you don’t have to send them to school each day.
  • Child Can Use It As an Excuse- Children are good at using things as a crutch, and anxiety disorders are no exception. It’s much easier for them to try to get away with things at home than it would be in a classroom. The parent must realize when they truly need rest and when it’s an attempt to get out of work.

Homeschooling Anxious Teens

As your child grows, there may be times when you think their anxiety is getting better. However, often when the hormones kick in during the tween and teen years, it causes chemical changes in the brain, making it come back even worse than it was.

I thought my daughter was really making progress (and she was) but then she hit her tween years. We’re just shy of her becoming a full-fledged teenager, and things have really ramped up with her anxiety. 

Honestly, it’s like having a toddler again. 

  • She doesn’t let me out of her line of sight (even at home).
  • She doesn’t want to sleep alone in her bed.
  • A simple trip to the store by myself can turn into a major ordeal and often ends up with her crying and calling or texting me the whole time I’m gone to make sure I’m okay.
  • I can’t sit in the car at her lessons because she can’t see me.
  • I left to take her somewhere and had to come back home because the closer we got, the more her fears set in and she didn’t want to go.

These are examples of situations we deal with sometimes on a daily basis. I thought my child would have outgrown this by now, but that’s not the case when separation anxiety or any other anxiety disorder is involved.

It’s hard to reason with young children. And when they’re in a stressful situation, it can spiral out of control quickly. Luckily, teens can grasp what’s going on better than young children. They know what’s happening to them and recognize the need to use coping mechanisms to calm down. 

That’s where the parent comes in. We’re there to coach them through these episodes, gently remind them of the tools they’ve learned, and help them choose what may work best. They won’t get that one-on-one help in a classroom.

Resources to Help a Child with Anxiety

Homeschooling can be a huge help to your anxious child, but you will need some help navigating your way through it. There are quite a few resources available. 

Depending on the severity of your child’s anxiety, it may be a good idea to see a counselor or therapist. Be sure to find someone who’s open to the idea of homeschooling. 

AT Parenting Survival– If you don’t have a therapist in your area who specializes in childhood anxiety, AT Parenting Survival is a great option! Natasha Daniels is a licensed anxiety and OCD therapist who also has children of her own with anxiety. She offers courses, a Facebook group, community membership, a podcast, and YouTube Channel. There’s so much good information here!

Life Lessons Global– This is an online course by Joelene Lavrick that helps children overcome excessive anxiety, anger, and sadness. She has some wonderful strategies!

Usborne Books and More has some fantastic books for mindfulness. My favorites are the UnHurry and UnWorry series.

Brillia– If you’re not in favor of using medication for your child, Brillia is a homeopathic product that many families have been having a lot of success with. It eases symptoms of ADHD as well. Brillia helps reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity, and anxiety in children, teens, and adults. There’s no prescription required and a 100% money-back guarantee. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a technique that many therapists use and have success with. Here are some CBT strategies you can try with younger students. Also, reframing negative thoughts, KICK plans for anxiety, and tame negative thinking can be used with any age.

Homeschooling a Child with Anxiety

Who else is going to understand your child’s anxiety better than you? Teachers don’t have special training for children with anxiety disorders. I know, because I was a teacher. It’s not to say they aren’t caring and won’t try. They just have 24 other kids in the classroom to worry about.

You, as the parent, are willing to read, learn, and try out different techniques to help your child. Being at home gives you the opportunity to attend to their mental health needs, adjust the learning environment, pivot when necessary, or just take a day off when things are bad.

Anxiety doesn’t go away. It’s a constant in these children’s everyday lives. They need to learn how to cope with it and what better way to do that than being in real-life situations during the day instead of the same classroom with four walls? 

I believe my daughter benefits from being homeschooled. I’m not saying it’s easy , because it’s not! Especially if you have anxiety yourself. But I’d much rather be the one helping my child deal with what she’s going through than someone who’s not able to give her the time and attention she deserves. And let’s face it, no one is going to love your child as much as you do.

That’s why I homeschool. It’s not just about reading and writing. It’s about helping our children discover things about themselves and deal with their struggles so that when they’re adults, they can say, “I’ve got this!”

If you have a child with anxiety, ‌consider homeschooling for a short period and see if it makes a difference. You might be surprised how much it helps.

Heidi Miller-Ford

About the author

Heidi is a former schoolteacher turned homeschool mom of three children. She believes your home doesn’t have to be chaotic just because you homeschool. At The Unexpected Homeschooler, you can learn how to develop systems for managing your time and tasks, creating a homeschool that’s more efficient, organized, and productive.

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