Parent Tips: Helping Your Child Overcome PE Anxiety


If your child experiences anxiety about PE class, you can make a huge difference—not just in their PE experience, but in their life as well—by helping them through it. Not only will your child learn to overcome fears and gain self-confidence, but they’ll get the all the benefits of PE too. After all, physical education is an important aspect of any child’s life, teaching them long-term healthy lifestyle habits, reducing sedentary time, increasing academic performance, and teaching other valuable lessons like teamwork, persistence, and goal setting.

Your child is not alone—many kids experience anxiety about PE for many different reasons, and the best thing to do is help them overcome their fears to grow and learn. Keep reading to learn how you can help your child feel confident when it’s time to go to physical education class.

Determine the Reasoning

Whether you begin to notice your child’s grades slip in PE or he even voices the fact that he does not like physical education class, it is important to first determine the reason why this is the case. Getting to the bottom of your child’s source of anxiety or animosity towards physical education class can help you to come up with the proper solutions.

There are many common causes of PE anxiety in children and teens. Some of the most common include:

  • Lack of confidence in physical ability
  • Fear of being picked last for teams
  • Self-consciousness about one’s body
  • Being bullied in school

If you are unsure of your child’s reasoning for disliking physical education class, have an honest and open conversation. It is important to be as open and non-judgmental as possible so that your child will have a better chance of opening up to you.

Speak with the PE Teacher

Once you are sure of your child’s reasons for having anxiety over PE class, it may be a good idea to schedule a conference with his or her physical education teacher. The teacher may be able to tell you things about your child’s performance that you were unaware of. For example, perhaps your child voiced to you that he does not like PE because he hates running. To your surprise, the physical education teacher may tell you that your child is one of the best runners in the class but fails to reach his full potential because he is worried about being made fun of or looked at differently because of his abilities.

Furthermore, speaking with the physical education teacher can be a great way to alert the teacher to problems he or she may not be aware of. Perhaps the teacher does not know that the child has PE anxiety. By working with the teacher as a team, you may be able to form a game plan together to make your child feel more comfortable and perform better in PE. After all, your child’s physical education teacher ultimately wants your child to perform well in the class.

Work on Stress-Relief Techniques

Consider working with your child to develop some techniques for relieving stress and calming down when feeling anxious about PE. Practice taking deep breaths with your child, explaining how taking even just three deep, cleansing breaths can help them on the spot when those anxieties pop up.

Help Your Child Find a Niche

If your child has anxiety because of a perceived lack of athletic ability, start by explaining that they don’t need to be excellent at sports to fit in at school. Help your child understand that they aren’t alone by describing uncomfortable moments you had in PE—being picked last for a team, not being able to get the hang of a sport, etc.

To help him or her gain confidence, however, do what you can to help your child find physical activities that he or she truly enjoys. Whether it is playing a game of soccer, going for a jog, or signing up for karate or dance class, making sure that your child has at least one physical activity that he or she truly enjoys is important. Not only will this help them feel more confident at school, but it teaches the value and joy of exercise.

On that note, it is also important to make sure that your child has plenty of time to explore different physical activities. If his or her schedule is jam-packed with music lessons, homework, church, and other activities, take a step back and re-assess your child’s schedule. He or she may be feeling understandably overwhelmed. Make sure that your child still has time to be a kid and have fun while getting a workout in the process.

Boost Your Child’s Confidence

The reality is that most children tend to overthink social situations, especially ones in which they are worried about being embarrassed. This is especially true in PE class. So what if your child cannot do the most sit-ups in the class? More than likely, nobody else is counting expect for the teacher.

Teach your child that it doesn’t matter if they are the best, worst, or somewhere in between at a sport or skill—the only thing that matters is giving it a good try. Confidence isn’t about knowing you’re the best. It’s about knowing that you can give something your best shot—or even just a shot at all.

Lead by example. Be open and willing to put yourself in positions that test your own confidence. Show your child that you don’t take yourself too seriously—that you are free to be yourself in any situation, whether people might be watching or not.

Practice Together

If your child feels anxiety about certain sports or skills, take time to help them improve—even if you aren’t so great at it yourself. In fact, this can be better because you will be learning together and showing your child that it’s okay to be a beginner.

Having someone to learn and practice with—especially a parent—can make a world of difference.

Overall, many children face PE anxiety; it is especially common among middle school and high school aged children, but it can happen at any time. It is important that you are proactive in helping your child tackle his or her anxiety for maximum success in physical education class. By finding out what the root of your child’s anxiety is, consulting with his or her teacher, and working one-on-one with your child to develop stress-handling techniques and self-confidence, you can get your child on the path to success in no time.

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