Some kids have no trouble finding the place where they fit in best at school; things seem easier for them, both with socializing and learning. But for many students, school brings anxiety and can affect their performance and their enjoyment of learning. It can be frustrating for the child, their parents, and teachers when this happens, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when these problems arise.
Fortunately, there are many ways we can help our young people cope with their anxiety and learn how to prevent it, or at least keep it from becoming overwhelming. Look for your students’ strengths and weaknesses and help them find the best ways to overcome school-related anxiety by talking about the things they fear most. For some, it’s test-taking; for others, bullying or peer pressure may be the issue. Whatever the cause, there is a solution.
Here are seven of the best tactics for helping your students cope with anxiety.
1. Talk to your students
It’s impossible to know how to help if you don’t talk to your students, so periodically sit down with them to get a better perspective. Is a student most anxious in the morning? Does the student feel unprepared for tests or is the anxiety occurring during normal school hours? Try to get a feel for what triggers those feelings and work out a way around them.
2. Talk to the parents
Depending on the age of the student, they may need a few moments away from the classroom at certain times of the day if they are feeling overwhelmed. Talk to the parents to get an idea of when the anxiety shows up and how best to deal with it. Sometimes, a few minutes alone in a quiet space can do wonders for those feelings of anxiousness.
3. Try different techniques
Often, anxiety will manifest itself into physical issues. If a student mentions that they feel like they can’t breathe, has headaches, or has major appetite changes, look for some coping techniques they can try at school or home. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and focusing on an object are all great ways to combat anxiety. For some students, art therapy is a great option and is often used for sufferers of PTSD and other disorders related to anxiety.
4. Let technology work for you
“There’s really a crisis in mental health now where we have some excellent scientifically-supported treatments for things like stress and anxiety disorders but they’re burdensome, expensive, stigmatizing, and time-consuming. We as psychologists need to do a better job of developing treatments that people can access that are effective,” says Dr. Tracy Dennis.
That’s where the many games and puzzles available online and in app stores come in; these can help with relaxation and focus and are a lot cheaper and easier to access than therapy. While most schools will be particular about what is played in the classroom, look for apps and puzzles your students can use for decompressing as well as learning.
5. Keep to the routine
Having a routine can help immensely when a student experiences anxiety. School will always have a routine which helps with consistency. If you know the routine will deviate, be sure to pull aside any students who need extra time to prepare themselves mentally. Even if it’s having a substitute teacher the next day, by giving your student a heads up, this can make for a smoother day.
6. Find programs for problem areas
If your student is having issues in one major area at school–for instance, with reading–find and suggest computer programs that will allow them to work on those from the comfort of his own home. Gaining strength in those problem areas will help boost their confidence in the classroom.
7. Be supportive
For many kids, the feelings that anxiety brings up can include the idea that they are alone or not normal. Be supportive and let your student know that many people go through anxiety for different reasons.
Try to stay patient with your students and encourage them to talk to you about what they are experiencing and struggling with. Working together will show your student how much you care and will give them positive reinforcement when they need it most.
Photo via Pixabay by SweetLouise