Back-To-School Anxiety: What Is It And How You Can Support Your Kid Through It
Doubt. Anger. Anxiety. These are some words that might come to your mind when you think about your kid going back to school. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were times when kids refused to go to school.
Most parents can connect with this, right? Your child does not want to go to school? Maybe it was a test that they weren’t prepared for. Or a fight with their friend that makes them feel anxious the next day.
You as a kid might’ve gone through the same thing but what kids these days go through might be a little heavier than you might think. In recent years, kids have had to deal with the influence of social media on their lives. Not only that but they’ve been facing increasing academic pressure and expectations. And let’s not forget the impact of bullying.
Now, all the above thrown in a mix together with the COVID-19 pandemic, children most especially, have experienced more loss in terms of social interactions, in-person learning, struggling with the new normal, loss of their family, and a lot more.
In a recent news article, I read that depression and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety while 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with depression.
It is safe to say that the main reason for children and adolescents developing anxiety disorders is due to school-related anxiety. Simply put, school anxiety is not uncommon and in this blog, I’ll help you understand the signs and causes of school anxiety and how, as parents and teachers, you can help your kid through it.
School Anxiety: Is It Real?
School anxiety can manifest in different ways depending mostly on the child’s age. For example, a preschooler might struggle with separation anxiety or the fear of being away from their parents. This might look like a temper tantrum and restlessness throughout the day.
As the child grows, their anxiety may change as well. A child, say aged 7, might not have the right social skills developed so they may struggle with social anxiety. Children in middle school may struggle with bullying that may contribute to their back-to-school anxiety.
As far as a high-schooler is concerned, they might struggle with different types of anxiety based on relationships, friendships, academic expectations, getting good grades, handling responsibilities, etc.
For children and teenagers, school anxiety can be a refusal to go to school or avoiding going to school.
No matter what their reasons, school anxiety is a real struggle and while it might not be a formal term of diagnosis, it can still be applied to describe an avoidance or outright refusal to go to school.
What Can Be The Signs Of School Anxiety?
As I mentioned, school anxiety can manifest in different ways. Here are some signs parents and teachers can look out for in their kids:
- Trouble paying attention
- Trouble staying still
- Excessive clinginess
- Physically feeling sick
- Throwing temper tantrums or other problematic behaviors
- Struggle with maintaining eye contact in class
- Experiencing panic symptoms when made center of attention in class
- Struggling with schoolwork or having a learning disability
- Poor academic performance
- Trouble socially interacting with others
Other physical symptoms of anxiety that children can have are:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
If left unchecked, school anxiety can contribute to symptoms of depression, self-isolation, and social withdrawal.
What Causes Anxiety At School?
Anxiety can be because of genetics too. If someone in your family has had a history of anxiety or related disorders, your child may be at risk of developing anxiety. Other times, some external factors may contribute to your child’s anxiety:
- Relationship or friendships drama
- Academic struggles (For example; undiagnosed learning difficulties)
- Other behavioral, mental, or developmental disorders such as ADHD, Autism, depression, etc
How To Support Your Kid Through School Anxiety?
As parents, one of the first things you need to do is understand the signs. If you see your child struggling, talk to them. If they open up to you, you can work together to find a solution.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to be open and frank with your child. Avoid making comments such as “Get over it”, “It’s not as serious.”. Spend time with them and listen to them.
You can also help your child by discussing all possible scenarios that may trigger their anxiety and come up with ways to best handle them.
If you are not sure how to help your child yet, you can reach out and seek professional help. A counselor can help you and your child come up with possible coping strategies to help cope with anxiety.
Most of all, do not forget to take care of yourself. As a parent, it can be difficult to focus on caring for your child if you’re not taking care of yourself. If you take care of yourself, your child will look up to you and focus on their self-care as well.
Apart from parents, teachers and educators are often responsible for a child’s development and wellness. As a teacher, you can also try to understand the signs of anxiety. This will help you in understanding how to reach out to the child’s parents to discuss the best ways to cope.
As a teacher, you can also offer them a safe space to talk. Offering them a quiet place to take a moment to breathe can be good too. You can come up with different ways in which a child can tell you about their anxiety symptoms.
You can also help by being empathetic and let them know you’re there for them if they want to talk with an adult.
One act of reaching out can make all the difference in a child’s life. Anxiety is a normal reaction in kids but if their anxiety starts to go out of hand and makes them lose their control, it is best to seek professional help.
Let your child know that they are not alone in their struggles. Work with them to find the right coping strategy to help them cope with their anxiety.
As I said, one person’s support – whether a parent or a teacher – can mean a lot to a child. I hope with this article, you were able to understand what school anxiety is, its signs, causes, and how to support your kid through it.
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