School is back in session, and for many children and adolescents, so is their anxiety. When anxiety is present in school aged children, not only can it impact their behavior at school, but also their behavior at home. Anxiety can present itself in many forms, depending on how each individual reacts to the stress in their own life. Common signs of anxiety include continued irritability, excessive worry, struggling to concentrate, and trouble sleeping. An uncommon sign that often gets overlooked is the need to stay busy. Adolescents can at times be immersed in multiple activities, while also trying to balance their personal and social life. The more time they have putting towards balancing activities; the focus on their own mental health may fall to the end of the to-do list.
As caregivers, it can be easy to miss signs of anxiety in our loved ones. Not because we do not care, but because life is busy and signs of anxiety may not be directly presented. School-aged children may not even recognize that their behaviors are a result of feeling anxious. In my home, I have a 4 year old that I co-parent. She started pre-k this fall and was so excited to make new friends. While shopping this summer, we passed the backpacks, which prompted her to talk about school and getting a big kid backpack. She talked about making friends but then while we were leaving the store she said “I might get scared when I have to go.” When I asked her why she said “because I have to go by myself.” I told her that she would be fine and told her all the people that are so excited and proud of her for starting school. But her worry over being alone continued throughout the next day when she told me she dreamed of being by herself. It was after her telling me this that I realized she is having serious thoughts about starting a new journey in her life and I wanted to do what I could to help ease her mind. Below are 5 tips from The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) that I have found to be very helpful when a child is having anxiety.
#1 Pay attention to your child’s feelings
What is causing your child worry? Are they showing signs of being overwhelmed? Are they only anxious in certain settings or around certain people?
#2 Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or an event
If you are not able to stay calm during a stressful situation, it can cause your child to also react to your emotions
#3 Recognize and praise small accomplishments
Recognizing small accomplishments your child makes can give them the confidence to complete bigger tasks that normally cause worry and doubt
#4 Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress
Children and adolescents will often make mistakes on the road to progress. Punishments can cause doubt and unwillingness to move forward. If you feel that the lack of progress is continuing, try revaluating the situation and setting different limits.
#5 Modify expectations during stressful period
Setting expectations before a situation has begun is a great way to plan but often when the situation is underway, individuals react to stressful situations different and a new plan is required to move forward.