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Anxiety about School Could Be Fear of Failure — 4-H Has a Solution

Is your child feeling anxious about the start of the new school year?

With increasing pressure to excel academically, some kids may feel like failure is not an option, said Stacey Ellison, interim associate director of the Florida 4-H Youth Develop Program, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

Fear of making mistakes can make a child less successful in the long run, she said.

“The research tells us that if kids are afraid of failing, they’ll shy away from experiences where they might experience failure, missing opportunities for learning and growth. When kids have a space where it’s okay to fail, they’re more open to new things and more resilient in the face of challenges,” Ellison said.

One of the missions of 4-H, the nation’s oldest youth development program, is to create safe spaces where kids can experiment without fear of failure hanging over them, Ellison said.

The adult volunteers who mentor 4-H members provide a positive perspective on failures and celebrate moments of growth, she explained.

“If a child forgets part of her speech, the feedback will be on what she did well and what she needs to practice more. If a child needed to spend more time training their animal, they know to start earlier next year. If a child has to rebuild a robot, then their perseverance is the success,” Ellison said.

Fear of failure can also cause some kids to avoid the unfamiliar. If they stick to what they know, kids might struggle to figure out what interests them and, ultimately, what they want to do as adults.

“Unlike many other programs for kids, which usually just focus on one thing, 4-H offers youth a buffet of activities they can be involved in,” Ellison said.

And they don’t have to stick with just one activity.

“A child might come in the door because they want to learn about horses and then quickly decide they are much more interested in robotics or leadership. That’s all possible under the 4-H umbrella,” Ellison said.

4-H is available in every county in Florida. To contact your local 4-H program, visit


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.