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How To Help A Child With Anxiety About School

Give Your Child A Memento

How to help your child overcome school anxiety

Miller suggests allowing your child to have a scarf or handkerchief of yours, or buying a small teddy or blanket that youve put your love into to place in their backpack. For older children, a piece of your jewelry, a trinket or photo can do the same trick.

On those tough days when they miss you, one soft cuddly item from you or a picture or symbol will help ease their worries or sadness,” she says.

When Is Anxiety A Problem For Children

Anxiety becomes a problem for children when it starts to get in the way of their everyday life.

If you go into any school at exam time, all the children will be anxious, but some may be so anxious that they don’t manage to get to school that morning.

Severe anxiety like this can harm children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, affecting their self-esteem and confidence. They may become withdrawn and go to great lengths to avoid things or situations that make them feel anxious.

Say Goodbye And Mean It

Before you leave, let your child know who will be picking them up and when you will see them again. If the child cries, give a good hug and kiss, tell them when youll see them, and leave them with the teacher.

Dont linger. The lingering suggests that you might not trust the situation and may make them more upset, Miller says.

At the end of the day, whether your child cried or not, praise their bravery and remind them that youll always return.

And take heart: crying and clinging is a sign that your child is attached to you, which is “critical for your child’s healthy development and future academic success,” Miller says. “Allowing them to practice trusting in someone elses care because youve approved it for your child is yet another step in their growth and development.”

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Let Them Know Their Feelings Are Valid

Its important to let your child know that you value and respect their feelings. Telling them that its okay to express concern, doubt, or fear about returning to school can help alleviate their anxiety. Knowing its normal to feel however they feel can help them feel more connected and find ways to make themselves feel better. Children are naturally self-guided learners, and understanding their emotions are normal is a key stepping stone to becoming more independent and secure.

Encouraging Your Child To Return To School

Back to School Anxiety: How To Help A Child With Anxiety ...
  • 1Talk with your child to reassure them. Once you have identified the reason your child is struggling, talk with them about their feelings and let them know that youre there for them. Offering them this reassurance may help them to feel less anxious about attending school.XTrustworthy SourceJohns Hopkins MedicineOfficial resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins HospitalGo to source
  • Try saying something like, I know it can be scary to start at a new school, but it will get easier.
  • Or, offer a simple reassurance, such as, Im here for you whenever you want to talk.
  • 2Start a morning routine to help reassure your child. Children find routines soothing, so developing a simple morning routine may help your child to feel more secure. Wake your child up at the same time each morning, and encourage them to do the same things in the same order each day.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
  • For example, try waking up your child at 7:00, have them get dressed, wash their face, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and then gather their things for school.
  • Tip: Your child may need help and prompting depending on their age. For example, if you have a child aged you may need to lay out their clothes for them, help them with buttons and zippers, and time them while they’re brushing their teeth.

  • This may help your child return to school without a repeat episode.
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    Why Returning To School This Year Seems More Challenging Than Ever

    Back-to-school can often be a stressful during the best of times. The return to the classroom this year feels even more complicated due to the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for, but that resiliency has been put to the test over the last 18 months.

    Depending on where your child attends school, they may have participated in online learning, home-schooling, or in-classroom learning. In some cases, children have been moved between learning modes often with little or no notice of the change.

    Children are also aware that were not back to normal yet. They share the same concerns and fears as their parents regarding quarantines, school closures, and potential returns to online learning.

    Types Of Anxiety Disorders In Children

    : Excessive worrying that something bad will happen if the child is not with their parents, caregiver, or anyone to whom they are attached. The child may be reluctant or refuse to stay at a relative or friends house, sleep alone or go to school. Many children experience separation anxiety between 18 months and three years old when it is normal to feel some anxiety when a parent leaves the room or goes out of sight. Usually, children can be distracted from these feelings. However, separation anxiety may surface or resurface when the child is older and especially between ages 7 and 9.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Chronic anxiety and excessive worry about everything and everyday life. A child with GAD worries about the meaning of a canceled play date or a delayed response to a text. Children with GAD fret about bad things happening to people they love or that no one will come to the birthday party they didnt want in the first place. The worry is overblown in relation to the events that sparked the worry. GAD is exhausting as children worry chronically and constantly and cant control these thoughts. In addition, children with GAD often dont trust their instincts and seek constant approval or reassurance from others.

    A panic attack usually lasts about 15-30 minutes whereas the resulting fear of another attack persists and that fear of panic returning is what triggers avoidance behavior to avoid another attack.

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    Know When To Get Outside Help

    You know your child best. If you sense that their back-to-school anxiety may be rooted in something more serious, such as an anxiety disorder or a problem with a bully, talk with your child, your child’s teacher, and the school counselor.

    If your child continues to struggle with anxiety, or if you feel you need additional help, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

    And remember, you need to relax as well. Back-to-school time can be just as hectic and stressful for parents. Take care of yourself by eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise during this transitional phase.

    Remind yourself that any anxiety or stress you or your child may be feeling is usually temporary. Before you know it, your family will likely be deep into the back-to-school groove.

    Validate Your Child’s Feelings

    How To Help Your Child With School Anxiety | The Channel Mum Children’s Anxiety Series

    It is not uncommon for children, and even teens, to feel nervous or anxious every day in school. And, if there is an active shooter drill, or even just a fire drill, this heightens the sense of worry and concern they have about a potential shooting.

    Consequently, make sure you are talking to your kids about their feelings. Even if your child has said nothing about the recent school shootings, start a conversation about it. Just because they are not mentioning it, does not mean they are not worried or concerned.

    This conversation also allows you to gauge how much they are struggling with fear and anxiety. Remember, talking about fears is healthy. So, resist the urge to try to smooth things over or minimize their feelings. Make sure you listen to their concerns and address them honestly and without judgment.

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    Stop Reassuring Your Child

    Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about.” Done and done, right? No, it’s not that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It’s not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex – or more logical part of the brain – gets put on hold. While the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try the FEEL method:

    ⢠Freeze — pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.⢠Empathize — anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.⢠Evaluate — once your child is calm, it’s time to figure out possible solutions.⢠Let Go – Let go of your guilt you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

    If The Child Has Not Shown Any Signs Of Anxiety About School Before

    If you dont think your child had any anxiety about school before, but may be experiencing it now, look for signs such as irritability if you mention school, avoidance of school work, avoidance of contacting their friends or physical symptoms of anxiety such as their heart racing or feeling sick when you mention school.

    For these young people, I would organise some sort of exposure to see how they cope. Also, access support either via the GP or through their school. You can also contact a specialist service, such as Priory Group. We have online consultations available for young people, so they can get access to the help that they need.

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    Try To Keep The Anticipatory Period Short

    When were afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it. So another rule of thumb for parents is to really try to eliminate or reduce the anticipatory period. If a child is nervous about going to a doctors appointment, you dont want to launch into a discussion about it two hours before you go thats likely to get your child more keyed up. So just try to shorten that period to a minimum.

    What Causes Anxiety In Children

    5 tips to support kids with separation anxiety when ...

    Research shows that biology, biochemistry, and environmental factors play a role. While anxiety disorders do run in families, a family history doesnt mean a child is destined to develop a disorder. Much depends on the childs nature, innate sensitivity, experiences, and family dynamics. For some children, stressful or traumatic events can set off an anxiety disorder.

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    Is Some Separation Anxiety Typical

    Some separation anxiety is typical in young children around three or four years old. It is common for them to cling to parents, cry, and resist when going to another caregiver . However, if the anxiety seems severe in that it is causing extreme distress and interfering with daily functioning, support and intervention is recommended.

    Build Confidence With A Baby

    Helping kids come up with a plan to face their fears is Lewis’ job. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and a big part of that is exposure therapy.

    Lewis says she once worked with an 8-year-old who was terrified of vomiting.

    “We did a lot of practice, which included buying vomit spray off Amazon and vomit-flavored jelly beans,” she recalls. “We listened to all types of fun vomit sounds using YouTube video. We did a lot of practicing up to the point where we created fake vomit, and we were in the bathroom and just pretending to vomit.”

    And Lewis says that baby step after baby step, the girl made important progress.

    “One of her peers had vomited in the classroom. And she comes into session, and she was just like, ‘Someone vomited in my class, and I ran to the corner of the classroom’ and was just like, ‘I didn’t leave the classroom!’ … She was very proud of the progress she was making. In the past, she would have run out of the classroom to the counselor’s office and then missed school for, like, the next week.”

    Lewis says parents can use rewards to celebrate their kids when they make progress think small but meaningful rewards like letting your child pick dinner that night or the movie for family movie night.

    Obviously, these takeaways are just a starting point for concerned families. For more helpful takeaways about how to identify and manage childhood anxiety, Pine and Lewis recommend a handful of books:

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    Helping A Child Anxious About School Takes Time And Patience

    One thing you have to remember is that if you want to help a child with anxiety about school, it will take some time!

    The worst thing you can do is rush through these tips. It will cause additional frustration for you and your child. By rushing your child, you may also set back any progress they may have made too.

    Dont rush it! Take your time.

    Dont Be Unrealistic But Try To Stay Upbeat

    How to help your child overcome school anxiety

    Goldstein talks about how parents cant really make promises that everything is going to be great in relation to a stressful situation but that children can learn to handle it positively.

    For example, Goldstein writes that parents shouldnt tell a child that theyll definitely love an activitymaybe they will hate itand parents also cant guarantee that the child wont be heckled during show-and-tell. Yet in both situations, parents can help empower a child on how to handle the outcome.

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    Anxiety Is A Fear Of The Future And All Its Unpredictability

    “The main thing to know about anxiety is that it involves some level of perception about danger,” says Pine, and it thrives on unpredictability. The mind of an anxious child is often on the lookout for some future threat, locked in a state of exhausting vigilance.

    We all have some of this hard-wired worry, because we need it. Pine says it’s one of the reasons we humans have managed to survive as long as we have. “Young children are naturally afraid of strangers. That’s an adaptive thing. They’re afraid of separation.”

    Full-blown anxiety happens when these common fears get amplified as if someone turned up the volume and they last longer than they’re supposed to. Pine says separation anxiety is quite common at age 3, 4 or 5, but it can be a sign of anxiety if it strikes at age 8 or 9. According to research, 11 is the median age for the onset of all anxiety disorders.

    A bundle of factors contributes to a child’s likelihood of developing anxiety. Roughly a third to half of the risk is genetic. But environmental factors also play a big part. Exposure to stress, including discord at home, poverty and neighborhood violence, can all lead to anxiety. Research has shown that women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder over their lifetime and that anxiety, as common as it is, appears to be vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated.

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