It’s normal for students of all ages to experience varying degrees of anxiety, stress and apprehension at the beginning of the school year, whether it’s an elementary student not feeling well and missing school, or a college student having trouble sleeping and focusing. Approximately 32 percent of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety comes with real consequences.
One of the main problems of anxiety is how it affects the way a person thinks. Students struggling with anxiety commonly experience excessive and amorphous worry and tension surrounding academic performance and social relationships. They may also have trouble with concentration, procrastination, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Being easily startled and having frequent somatic complaints such as headaches and stomachaches are also side effects.
Increased expectations, both academically and socially, packed extracurricular schedules and decreased time with family can lead to anxiety for students throughout the school year. While anxiety is a normal part of the human condition, knowing when to seek or provide help for children is important. If a child is falling behind in class, has withdrawn socially, is complaining of physical aliments, is having difficulty sleeping and concentrating and is using alcohol or recreational drugs to medicate, it’s time to seek professional help. There are also ways parents can help their students cope with school-related anxiety. Here’s how.
Eating nutritious, balanced meals, exercising on a regular basis and getting sufficient sleep help buffer the effects of stress. Parents of younger children can model these behaviors by incorporating them into their family schedule.
Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga are healthy ways to process anxiety.
For younger students, enlist the help of the school’s guidance counselor to discuss concerns in advance.
Make sure your child has regularly scheduled time away from screens and devices, whether it’s playtime or reading a book together. Prolonged exposure to screens and social media negatively impacts well being.
If your child’s anxiety lingers and interferes with his or her ability to grow emotionally and academically, seek help from a psychologist specializing in school-related anxiety. The sooner children learn healthy ways to process their anxiety, the better.