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Help for Children with School Anxiety

Help for Children with School Anxiety

Having suffered from anxiety and depression myself (like about 40 million, or 18% of Americans), I can tell you it is real. Yes, some people still think it’s “all in your head.” I have heard many well-intentioned teachers and parents alike poo-poo the idea of school anxiety in particular. While some may use these feelings as a crutch or excuse to avoid schoolwork, they can be physically damaging and real to the person suffering from true anxiety or one of several other possible disorders. Before pushing it off as nothing, please determine whether or not your child has an anxiety issue that needs your attention.

Just nervous or an anxiety problem?

How can a parent tell the difference? It is, after all, normal for kids to be nervous about a new school year and teacher, making friends, academic success and more. I’m nervous for my kids, but when is it a real problem? When your child can be distracted or comforted out of his or her worry, it may not be a big problem. It may just take time for your child to adjust to so many changes at once. Anxiety that lasts several weeks into the school year may suggest more is going on with your kid.

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When your child worries about everything, refuses to attend school, can’t focus on activities he or she would normally enjoy, or when his or her fears and worries impact activities of daily life, it is time to call the pediatrician. Keep the teacher in the loop and ask for his or her observations. If you have anxiety yourself, you may notice similar signs in your child. Try not to let your child hear you talk about your worries. Encourage your child to express his or her feelings and identify steps to take if they get overly anxious. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has tips and suggestions for parents and caregivers to help kids with school-related anxiety.

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Here are some ways parents can help a child who may be struggling with school anxiety.

  1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings as real by speaking calmly and honestly; remember that no feelings are wrong. We all experience life differently, and what upsets me likely doesn’t bother you. Try not to add to your child’s fears with negative comments. Instead, encourage them to see the positive aspects of school (field trips, sports,  clubs, etc.).
  2. Try to include your child in school planning and scheduling; give choices or options when possible. Kids want some power over their life, and many options are available today.
  3. Prepare him or her for upcoming situations by knowing what may upset or exacerbate your child’s anxiety and teach him or her strategies to deal and avoid anxiety-inducing situations when possible. Deep breathing and visualization are two simple techniques even the youngest kids can master.
  4. Look forward to new opportunities rather than back at past failures. Always have high expectations for your child, academically and personally, but be flexible and non-critical when success is not reached.
  5. Encourage your child to develop his or her strength areas and independence by pointing out areas of success and providing opportunities to work on or display those skills.

Everyone gets nervous sometimes, but when nervousness turns to crippling anxiety, get help. Be patient with kids as they traverse a new school year with a new teacher, but be aware when your child seems overly clingy or the stomachache returns each morning before school. Avoid letting your child stay home, as this can give the wrong message. Instead, be supportive without giving in or giving up. Finally, keep teachers and school professionals involved in the conversation; they may have experience and techniques to help support your child’s continued success in school and life.

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Joan Lowell

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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