How To Help Pupils Cope With Back to School Anxieties?

Carefree sunny days filled with activity, ice cream and fun – now replaced with new shoes, sitting still and change, the autumn term begins!


This term in particular can be an anxious time for all young people. The transition to secondary school brings apprehensions of the unknown as well as the cultural differences from the familiar can feel overwhelming. Moving class with different Teachers can feel too much for some or just getting back into term time routine, children can struggle to cope with change.


The biggest hurdle for them to deal with is not the change itself, but the fear of it. The deafening ‘inner chat’ and the mountain of negative ‘what-if’s’ can weigh heavy on young shoulders.


‘What if no-one likes me, what if the work is too hard, what if the Teachers are too scary?!


The over analysis of the unknown negatively feeds the mind to distort reality.

It overtakes rational thinking causing the body to react with physical manifestations of the mental torment. Tummy ache, headache, sickness they’re an outcropping of the internal turmoil.


The apprehensions are equally extensive for Head Teachers and school staff. With the growing number of pupils needing additional attention, the added workload for SENCOs /PRUs with dwindling financial support, term time is a roller coaster of emotions for everyone.


The power of the mind is incredible and a child’s is no different. But at this crucial stage of development without the proper skills to be able to handle situations, problems and challenges, a young person can feel out of control. This can manifest in emotions such as anger, disrespectfulness, disruptive outbursts, mood-swings or crying.


Over the last few years there’s been a significant increase in the number of school aged

children struggling to cope with mind based issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD, self-harm and other patterned behaviours, which are all coping mechanisms.


A stark report from the charity YoungMinds earlier this year… “Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression and between 1 in every 12 children and young people deliberately self-harm.”


With this level of need – it’s inevitable that Head Teachers, House Masters, House Mistresses and key support staff will begin the term dealing with young people struggling to cope with transitional changes associated with the autumn term.


The added pressure and strain on resources often has an echoing effect on staff and the school itself early on in the term, with higher than normal staff absenteeism and employment turnover.


With this stretch in resources many Heads of Schools and Educational facilities think the only answer is some kind of counselling, therapy or individual teaching – special attention that only often creates a false sense of comfort for the pupil.


Whilst pupil wellbeing is paramount – the risk in this type of method is of creating a secondary gain for the pupil. We’re creatures of habit so if we’re made to feel good through a certain emotion there could be a pattern developed in the subconscious to keep the issue going to receive the special attention or treatment.


What’s needed is integrated and simple techniques that all pupils can learn


…and Teachers can easily use that enhances the classroom experience and enables each pupil to feel more empowered and better able to cope with challenges.


One of the simplest yet overlooked ways to calm emotions is breathing!


Nerves, anxieties and fears all have a significant effect on how we breathe. Changes in feelings and emotions can cause panicky, quick and uncontrollable breaths. Helping pupils to better manage their emotions firstly involves awareness and secondly having access to the right tools.


As with learning anything albeit academic, sports or a new skill – progress is a process and so with regular practice pupils are more connected with how they feel and changes in thought, body and breathing will enable them to control things easier and quicker.


To help calm initial nerves and emotions at the start of term why not try this very simple exercise in class… Belly Breathing.


  • Connect hands onto the belly, breathe in through the nose and make the breath push the belly out slightly. Breathe out slowly through the mouth to allow the belly to return to its normal resting place. Try 2-3 of these breaths for a calming effect that helps pupils relax and feel more in control.


Breathing affects everything, including clarity of thought and focused concentration – it allows the brain to relax rather than contract through stress or worry. Controlling the breath is just one of the ways CHAMPS Academy has consistently enabled pupils to achieve better grades, control behaviour, communicate clearer and feel happier in themselves. The recipe for a more blissful classroom!


In just 6-weeks pupils can feel 30% more confident!


Increasing pupil confidence and helping them manage emotions provides them with a greater ability to cope with pressure, handle stress and contend with the trials and tribulations of school life.


Annette Du Bois is the Kids/Teens Confidence Expert and founder of CHAMPS Academy including the proven CHAMPS Method. The only formulated and highly effective confidence and achievement coaching for young people that gets results without the need for counselling or therapy (which also incorporates suitably aged Mindfulness based techniques). As well as working with Schools (including Independent, Boarding and other Educational Facilities) CHAMPS Academy is a Franchise and through accredited training Annette licenses coaches to operate kids/teens confidence and achievement coaching in their area.


For more details about staff training, pupil workshops or guest speaking please contact Annette Du Bois by phone: 01243 601236 or email: or visit