Supporting students with school anxiety during COVID-19

Posted on 05/29/20 12:15:pm


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Throughout the many changes to children and teens’ daily lives during the pandemic, some students have adjusted better than others to virtual learning. With the school year winding down, parents who have been schooling kids from home may be wondering if some of the things they’ve been noticing are cause for concern.

“It’s normal and even beneficial for kids to have some level of being anxious about school in general,” says David Jacobi, PhD, lead psychologist, child and adolescent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) services at Rogers Behavioral Health. “For example, students tend to perform better on tests when they are somewhat anxious. They have heightened attention, and they are better able to retrieve information from memory.”

However, while some school-related anxiety can be positive, Dr. Jacobi warns that excessive and prolonged anxiety typically indicates a mental health issue. What may typically present as school anxiety or school refusal looks a little different in a virtual learning environment.

Dr. Jacobi shares 10 signs a student could be suffering from an anxiety disorder:

  1. Excessively checks and reviews schoolwork

  2. Reworks, erases, rewrites assignments
  3. Has incomplete assignments or spends excessive time completing assignments
  4. Seeks excessive reassurance from teachers or parents
  5. Has trouble concentrating
  6. Expresses self-doubt and criticism, saying things like “I’m stupid”
  7. Isolates when online school is over for the day
  8. Doesn’t get enough sleep or sleeps too much
  9. Experiences frequent headaches or stomach aches
  10. Attempts to avoid attending virtual classes

What parents can do

Share concerns with the teacher

“If parents notice school-related anxiety they should talk with their child’s teachers. Even though school is being done virtually, teachers are still available to help. Discuss how schoolwork is going, and if it seems appropriate, ask for more time to complete assignments. Asist your child in asking for one-on-one time with a teacher for additional guidance.”

Work with your child

“I’m not advising parents to do the schoolwork for their kids, but they can sit with them and encourage them if they’re having a hard time completing an assignment or studying for a test.” For more strategies and tools to use at home, listen to Rogers’ Understanding School Refusal podcast and access the downloadable resources.

Remember the basics

“Parents should remember the important basics of adequate sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and a predictable routine. Family meals are a great time to come together, ask questions, and generally check in on how everyone is doing.”

The summer months are often an ideal time for families to focus on mental health treatment for children. By addressing concerns in the absence of the stress of school, students can be better prepared to return to school in the fall, whether it’s held in person or online.

Rogers can help

Rogers offers specialized, evidence-based treatment for OCD and anxiety for children and teens throughout the country. Call 800-767-4411 for a free, confidential screening or request one online.

If you do not feel you, or your child, needs treatment right away, but may be concerned, we offer online quizzes to possibly provide some relief. While these quizzes do not provide a diagnosis, it could be the first step in finding the treatment you, or your child, may need. Take our online Anxiety Quiz today.


Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.