Your Sensitive Child at School and Their Anxiety

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Some thoughts from an anxious child:

Standing constantly on the edge of a crowd looking in. Slowly counting down the minutes before escape is an option. Questioning have enough people seen me that it is now ok to leave without causing offense?

Sitting in class excitedly thinking, “Yes! Yes! Miss I know this one? pick me! Please pick me!” Now it’s my turn to answer and all I can manage is…. “Yeah, um… what was the question again please? Oh um! Yes,th… th a… “ Tripping over the words as I excitedly try to explain  myself, feeling more and more embarrassed by the minute.  If only the floor would only open for my quick decent! And my teacher moves on….

Did someone say “Exam”?… I was trying to avoid this one… which possibly, ok probably means, it needs special mention… Sitting silently amongst other students waiting for all of the instructions to be read, whilst starring with trepidation at the back of the exam paper face down on the desk! “15 minutes reading time starts now! You may turn over your paper.”, calls the head supervisor. Turning the exam paper over…. “Oh, no! Where are the words?” When your subconscious starts telling you “Breathe, you need to breathe!” as the star’s in from of your eyes slowly fade and you slowly stop shaking, you realise there is a teacher standing in front of you, handing you a glass of water, saying “Are you ok? Why aren’t you writing? You could start writing 15 minutes ago!” Looking from me to the paper she sees I am confused and shaking… she opens the booklet in the middle and says “Start here! Find the answer place in your answer book.”  Subconscious advises, “Oh, a task! We can do that… “!

Suggestions for successful negotiations in these situations:

1. Become familiar with the task at hand.

    1. Review possible scenarios and how you will handle them.
    2. Talk to your teacher about particular exam strategies.

2. Make your own in-a-pocket support system.

    1. A support for ‘anxiety and/or panic inducing situations’ creature in your pocket is helpful …. Here the choice is usually a tiny smurf!  A distraction for centering yourself.
    2. A pencil and small notebook for drawing.  In an exam ask if you can take a separate paper to draw on. Your teacher can check it or take it and bring you a spare.

3. A prepared speech.

    1. When you are worried you can hold your cards, even if you don’t need them, during your presentation.
    2. Prepare – practice, practice, practice!
    3. Visual your presentation – and your success (Even when you are worried! You can do this!)
    4. Vocus on a point above the audience’s head. It looks like you are talking to them but they are not in focus so you don’t have to register off-putting antics, even unintentional ones.

4. In class.

    1. A support creature – a kerokerokeroppi pen to pick up with the purpose of holding focus.
    2. Organising your desk in a way to support your thought processes.
    3. Have a scribble book or paper to draw extra explanation notes to the lesson notes on, or to squiggle on to help if you start to feel frazzled.

Think before you speak!

Practice till you are ready to tell your mother and elocution teacher – enough please!.  The mantra of the elocution teacher echoes still,

“Deep breathe! Sit up straight! Hands on the desk or in your lap! Now, answer the question!”

  • If you look-up speech exercises like:
    Repeating “red leather, yellow leather” clearly as many times as you can in one breathe.
  • Learning to say tongue twisters as fast as you can. Then as many times as you can in one breathe clearly.
  • I used to be terrified before presentations but “red leather, yellow leather” repeated in the bathroom 100 times before hand meant my speech never caught me out. My nerves had me shaking but my speech and shakes never showed  – but I had to practice!
  • Find a long piece of poetry to learn. I could recite “The Man From Snowy River” by A B “the Banjo” Paterson, all 4 pages of it. And I kept it learnt (I still know most of it) because… if you can visualise yourself not faltering, you won’t.

However, to get to that point you need to practice.

  • Practice conversations.
  • Pick a topic and get someone to throw questions at you that you have to answer.  Even asking multiplication tables fast (even if your child is 15).
  • The faster you can answer questions the less likely you will be caught off balance
  • Slowly you will learn to think on your feet.


Practice a beginning response to every question you will encounter:

  • Example:  What is today’s date? Start with the obvious. “Today’s date is…”
  • Another example: How many states does Australia have? “Australia has ….”

This way you know where you are starting, so usually you don’t need to fumble on the part of an answer or talk you wish to present.

Nerves are funny things – you can learn to use them to your advantage by centering yourself and concentrating on the words you already know.

The key to overcoming your anxiety in these situations is to role play the possibilities, and practice until you are confident you will succeed.

Articles I like:

  1. https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/gifted-childrens-challenges-with-learning-and-attention-issues
  2. http://www.psy-ed.com/wpblog/empathy-and-anxiety-in-gifted-children/
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Author: Josephine O'Brien

I am an Australian. Accountant by trade. Teacher by necessity. Advocating for learning differences, gifted, and multiliterate children. I grew up on a farm in country NSW, where I developed a love for languages hosting Japanese farmstay visitors, and as an exchange student. Studied several languages whilst working and met my Arabic speaking husband at University. Currently an expat, worldschooling in an effort to provide an holistic approach to bicultural. Find my ‘A sojourn to writing' at https://springbrookorbillabong.wordpress.com/

One Reply to “Your Sensitive Child at School and Their Anxiety”

  1. Omg …that little girl was also me. The one who woukd sneak in tbe back seat if she could. I never liked to be the center of attention. Except when I was singing. Then I loved to be on stage. That could also be one tip …find that one passion that motivates you. That you would do even in front of hundred different people. That is one time you can beat your anxiety!! Lovely post.

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