According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children suffers from anxiety. This is quite a large number, and simply must be addressed. Children who suffer from anxiety tend to do poorly in school and social situations, and often these students will resort to recreational drug use in order to self-medicate.
For obvious reasons, this is a dangerous situation and one we should be making every effort to remedy.
Unfortunately, many parents and teachers are unaware of the fact that the children in their lives are suffering from this problem. Therefore, it is crucial that these caregivers really take the time to observe students for the telltale signs.
These signs might include the obvious, such as a child expressing worry about a number of things on a daily basis. They could also include more subtle signs, such as general irritability, restlessness, fatigue, an inability to concentrate, or an inability to sleep at night. Finally, some symptoms of anxiety could be physical, such as frequent stomachaches, headaches, or general muscle tension.
While many of these symptoms can be caused by other issues, it is important to rule anxiety out fairly early in the game. If a child in your life seems to be displaying these symptoms, be sure to find professional help as soon as possible in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis and begin the proper treatment.
After a child has been diagnosed with anxiety, he or she will likely begin therapy of some sort. One of the very best forms of therapy for these children is referred to as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. During CBT sessions, the therapist exposes the patient to things that trigger their anxiety in order to help them overcome fears and learn to cope without avoidance.
In addition to therapy, there are a number of things parents and caregivers can do in order to help children work through their anxiety and emerge stronger. Here are a few ideas for those who may be dealing with this issue currently.
Teach Management Without Elimination
Many caregivers will be tempted to whisk a child out of an anxiety-inducing situation as quickly as possible or avoid these situations entirely. However, while this does help the child feel secure in the short term, it does them no favors in the long run.
Instead of removing the child from situations that make them uncomfortable, acknowledge their fear but encourage them by telling them how you know they can work through it, and even if their fear should come to pass, you know they will be okay. They may also feel more comfortable knowing you will be helping them every step of the way.
Avoid Leading Questions
Questions that introduce the idea of worry into a new situation can actually cause the student to worry when there was no anxiety before. For instance, questions such as, “Are you feeling nervous about show-and-tell today?” can potentially lead to nervousness. Instead, try asking the question in a more open-ended manner: “How are you feeling about-show and-tell?”
Control Your Emotions
Children can read adults very well. Therefore, if you are feeling anxious about how your child will react when placed in a situation that would normally cause them feelings of worry or fear, they will pick up on that emotion. This is likely to result in increased worry from the child, who takes cues from you as their caregiver. By making an effort to remain upbeat even when you think a situation may stir up anxiety in the child, you are setting a more positive tone for the whole experience, decreasing the likelihood of a meltdown.
Sometimes the traditional school setting is just too much for a child who is suffering from anxiety. If you feel your child may do better in a small school with more one-on-one attention, it might be a good idea to look at other options. Here at Tenney School we take our students’ mental health just as seriously as we take their education. Therefore, we feel we are the perfect option for those students who are more prone to anxiety.
If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please contact us today.