Feeling restless on the first day of school or before a test is understandable. In fact, a certain amount of worry is normal because that’s what makes us human. Plus, a little fear is beneficial in order to alert us and help us avoid dangerous situations. Unfortunately, having anxiety is much more complicated than just feeling nervous at times. Symptoms usually vary on a very large spectrum, encompassing mild symptoms of worry to feelings of impending and imminent doom in the form of panic attacks.
Sleeplessness, excessive and unreasonable worrying, trouble concentrating and an upset stomach are all serious symptoms of anxiety and can severely impact both adults and children in their day-to-day lives. Many children go undiagnosed or untreated, and they struggle paying attention in class, doing homework and being productive in school. It’s imperative that parents seek medical care if their child shows symptoms of anxiety.
It goes without saying that it’s a parent’s job to offer their child the necessary care and attention at home if they are diagnosed with anxiety, however, teachers also have a great responsibility to create a safe environment in the classroom. Professional tutoring is also a viable option for anxious children, but steps need to be taken at school, as well, to ease the learning process not just for children with anxiety, but for every child who has learning disabilities.
Anxiety is a serious mental health problem in the United States
Anxiety is among the top three most common mental illnesses in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, this disorder affects over 40 million adults in the country aged 18 and older, which is roughly just over 18% of the entire U.S. population. When it comes to children, the numbers aren’t that great either, especially now when the whole world is struggling to function due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that anxiety disorders affect about 32% of children aged between 13 and 18 years old in America. Furthermore, Child Mind Institute ran a survey recently that shows how anxiety and depression are the leading causes for parents to seek help for their children. Research also shows how untreated children and teenagers suffering from anxiety have a higher risk of developing poor performance at school, as well as missing out on important and fun social interactions.
In the context of the coronavirus, some children might even have developed anxiety by spending more time at home, and now feel anxious to go back to normal. It’s also possible that children with severe classroom anxiety felt safer at home, but now are even more anxious to go back to school. So, nobody really benefited from any of this. Plus, children going through these emotions rarely understand what’s actually going on, and why they’re suddenly experiencing anxiety episodes.
How can teachers help students with anxiety at school?
Managing anxiety isn’t a walk in the park, and even professionals and people who are aware of their symptoms struggle. As teachers in a packed classroom, it’s extremely difficult to manage students and keep them on their best behavior, and when children are in need of special care, it makes the job that much harder.
Here a several tips on how to help children with anxiety in the classroom:
1. Talk about anxiety openly
This is probably one of the most important things teachers can do. Talking openly about anxiety not only helps children who suffer from this condition, it also helps the other students learn and understand this disorder, so they can be more considerate towards their colleagues.
2. Form a trustworthy connection privately
Creating a trustworthy bond with an anxious child can mean the world to them. If they feel understood, chances of having a panic attack or feeling anxious can alleviate. Plus, don’t forget to give private praise when they’re doing well.
3. Practice breathing exercises
Teaching children how to control their breathing when feeling overwhelmed or anxious is very important. When people slow down their breathing, they become calmer and are able to focus better. Deep breathing helps relieve stress, as well.
4. Go outside
Taking a break from class and going outside can do wonders. Nature and fresh air are known to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, and having your students focus on birds, trees and the environment can help them detach and calm down.
5. Remind kids to stay healthy
Having a balanced and healthy diet is important not just for children suffering from anxiety, but for pretty much every human being. Remind kids to eat healthily, drink plenty of water and maintain an active lifestyle outside the classroom.
6. Share personal stories
It’s key that children don’t feel alone, and hearing an adult share similar stories revolving around anxiety can be very comforting for them. Just remember, always end on a positive note and keep your stories interesting, informative and relatable.
Do you think your child needs private tutoring?
Here at DaVinci, we’re a team of highly trained professional teachers, equipped with the necessary knowledge to tutor children with special needs. If you’re a teacher struggling to form connections with students that require special attention, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our consulting team works in partnership with school districts and fellow educators to explore and expand on best practices in education.