How Does Anxiety Affect Children’s Learning?

How Does Anxiety Affect Children's Learning?

Anxiety Affects Children’s Learning in Many Ways

Children can be prone to anxiety, just like adults. Unfortunately, they often lack the words to describe their anxiety so parents may not be entirely aware of it. When children have to deal with their anxiety on their own, it can affect their learning in school and other aspects of life.

So how does anxiety affect children’s learning? There are a number of ways that anxiety can impair their ability to learn.

Anxiety Makes Kids Uncomfortable

One of the main ways that anxiety can lead to problems is by making your child uncomfortable and distracts from what they could be learning. This can have fairly far-reaching effects.

  • An uncomfortable child is a distracted child. Unfortunately, they may not understand why they’re feeling uncomfortable or distracted. This can lead to fidgeting or other behavior that may get them scolded, which can compound their anxiety.
  • Being uncomfortable impairs their concentration.
  • Their anxiety could make them feel isolated or estranged from other children. This could adversely affect their social life, which could further dampen their education.
  • Anxiety can make children engage less in their education and learning (not wanting to answer a teacher or speak in front of others).

Anxiety Affects Memory

Research has shown that anxiety can have a tangible effect on our working memory. People have a harder time retaining information when they’re anxious. The discomfort and pervading presence of anxiety tends to override other cognitive functions. 

Anxiety Impairs Thought Processing

Anxiety doesn’t just affect a child’s memory, it affects their entire thought process. As mentioned, anxiety tends to take precedence over other cognitive processes. This means that your child may not be able to coherently think when they’re anxious.

This can make it difficult for them to follow a lesson, articulate answers to questions, or form sentences when socializing with other students. All of these issues can combine to create a negative impact on your child’s schooling.

Anxiety Upsets Children

This is especially true since anxiety is so difficult for a child to identify. If you’ve struggled with anxiety, then you likely remember how long it was before you actually recognized it for what it was. 

Unfortunately, most children don’t yet have a name for this strange feeling of discomfort and discontent that they’re feeling. This makes it hard for them to communicate and can make them upset. 

Anxiety Causes Avoidance

Naturally, kids don’t want to feel anxious. They will likely go to great lengths to avoid situations which make them feel anxious.

If they feel anxious at school, then they may become more prone to skipping school. They may also avoid doing homework or try to think of excuses to get by without it. 

Since children often don’t have a way to simply explain that they don’t want to go to school because it makes them anxious, their concerns are often unheard by parents. Children who are forced to go to school despite their anxiety may develop resentments, and the anxiety may grow worse.

Conclusion For How Anxiety Affects Children’s Learning

Anxiety is a problem that affects both children and adults. Children may find that anxiety creates a number of difficulties for them at school or in other learning environments. Understanding how anxiety impacts their learning is important if you want to learn how to help them manage the problem.


Dr. Sean Paul, MD is a child, teen and adult psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety as well as other mental health conditions. He see patients both in his office as well as via online psychiatry. 

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