Managing Academic Anxiety: A Guide for Parents and Students

Managing academic anxiety by brainstorming strategies to deal with stress on a whiteboard

Is your child anxious at school? Although some school-related anxiety is normal, there comes a point where too much stress can negatively impact a child’s wellbeing and performance at school. When it is manageable, it gives them a little healthy worry that can help motivate them to study for tests, complete homework on time and focus on schoolwork. There are ways to identify the warning signs when the anxiety affects your kid negatively and escalates so you can help your child manage academic anxiety when it becomes overwhelming.

What Is Academic Anxiety?

Academic anxiety arises when one is feeling anxious and worried as a result of school pressures like schoolwork, grades or assignments. At a low level, it can actually be helpful and productive as it boosts motivation; after all, it is fairly common to feel a bit pressured while you learn. However, if it is at an unhealthy and more severe level, it can actually cause the mind to seize up, making one underperform. It can also interfere with one’s general wellbeing and social skills. This is why managing academic anxiety can be key to overall wellness. 

Signs of Academic Anxiety

Children and adolescents don’t always tell you how they feel or show anxiety in obvious ways as they may not know how to communicate it. However, behaviour is often a way they communicate.

Look out for these signs of academic anxiety in your child:

For Parents: How to Help With Academic Anxiety

It’s natural to want to help kids feel better when they are stressed but sometimes even the best intentions backfire. By attempting to fix the problem without acknowledging your child’s feelings, it can make them feel worse and feel that their feelings are not valid.


Here are some helpful ways to respond:

1. Ask open-ended questions

Allow your child to share their honest feelings. 

Try: “How are you feeling about that class?”
Avoid: “Have you studied enough?” or “Are you worried you’re going to fail?”

2. Acknowledge their feelings

Ensure that your child feels understood.


Try: “I can tell this is important to you and you’re feeling overwhelmed.”
Avoid: “Don’t worry about it – you’ll be fine.”

3. Help them learn to manage their feelings

Rather than avoiding their feelings, teach your child how to affirm their inner experiences.


Try: “It’s normal to feel nervous about presenting. How about you do a test run with me so that you feel more comfortable tomorrow?”
Avoid: “I get it. You’re nervous to present in front of your class. Let’s ask your teacher if you can do something else.”

4. Focus on the effort

Shift your focus away from the score or the outcomes.

Try: “I’m really proud of how hard you have worked this year.”
Avoid: “I’m really proud of all of the A’s on your report card.”

For Students: How To Overcome Academic Anxiety In The Moment

Feeling shaky and short of breath as your teacher passes out a test? You could be feeling anxiety about grades or your performance in class. Worry not as there are ways you can self-regulate and manage your academic anxiety when you feel this way. By learning and practising the following skills during calm moments, you can prepare yourself to use them when you feel your anxiety arise at school.

1. Deep Breathing

Inhale through the nose slowly and exhale through the mouth. Repeat several times until your heart beat rests.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Slowly tense and relax muscles.
For example: As you inhale through your nose, tighten the muscles in your hands as if you were squeezing a lemon. Hold for a few seconds. As you exhale slowly through your mouth, allow your muscles to relax as you let go of your imaginary lemon.

3. Grounding

Take a few deep breaths, and then use your senses to notice things. For example: Notice 3 things you can see around you, 2 things you can touch or 1 thing you can hear, etc.

Overcoming Academic Anxiety Together In The Long Run

Here are some ways you can give your child a healthy outlook on school and help them manage school-related stress.

1. Practise healthy habits as a family

Healthy habits have a positive impact on both the body and mind and they help reduce stress. Encourage the whole family to prioritise getting enough quality rest, eating well and being active.

2. Encourage balance:

Encourage children to explore other interests and hobbies so that school is not their only focus.

3. Make time for play

Like adults, kids need unstructured time to play, unwind, be creative and relax. Taking breaks and being active can reduce stress.

4. Be a positive role model

Your child still looks to you as an example. When they see you managing stress in healthy ways, they are more likely to do the same. For example: “I feel stressed about a big work deadline, but I know I will feel better if I take a break to go for a walk. Would you like to join me?”

5. Teach your child how to study smarter

It is helpful to learn how to study properly. By staying organised, it can help reduce anxiety related to academics.

7. Find a quiet space and remove distractions (such as the TV, phone, etc)

8. Use a planner to help with time-management

School counsellor sitting with a student and speaking to her about mental health

At Nexus, we care deeply for our learners’ socio-emotional wellbeing and this includes managing academic anxiety and fostering good mental health skills. By combining the efforts in school with help from home, we hope to create a reliable and good support system for all of our learners to thrive personally and academically.

Nexus Counselling Team

Nexus Counselling Team

Zanthe, Daniel and Lori are dedicated school counsellors who aim to support Nexus learners with their personal wellbeing and to raise mental health awareness throughout the school.


Nexus International School (Singapore) © All rights reserved.

CPE Registration No. 201009668C, 21 March 2023 to 20 March 2027

All information is correct at time of upload and is subject to change.