Updated: Apr 13, 2021
We are seeing an uptick in anxiety in our students at school again (and not just those with diagnosed or identified anxiety challenges). Anxiety levels among many students (and parents) in all schools have risen and fallen in waves this year, understandably. However, we are starting to recognize a pattern. This year, we have found that our students tend to struggle more with anxiety (and worries and sometimes the resulting undesirable behaviours) in correlation with changes to COVID19 restrictions or whenever there is an increase in discussion and debates surrounding COVID19 in the media and community in general. Although I imagine most of us are doing what we can to shelter our children from the worst of all that is going on around us, it should not surprise us that they are aware of it nevertheless and that their mental health has been impacted.
As a school and as a staff, we feel that supporting student wellness is part of our role as educators and caregivers. I believe that our team is already doing an outstanding job of prioritizing mental health with as much care as physical health as well as emphasizing social-emotional learning and creating a sense of normalcy and routine for our students. For those who are not in our school, we try to post articles on social media and on our blog that are helpful for all parents of school-aged children.
Anxiety is not necessarily a negative thing. As many of you know, I have personally lived with anxiety my entire life and it has played an important role in helping me reach my goals and dreams. However, it does need to be supported, managed well and treated with empathy. We are working on helping our students build resiliency and build the skills to eventually manage anxiety (or worries or behaviours) with less support.
*Remember, anxiety in children sometimes presents as: hyperactivity, “class clown” behaviours, tummy aches, depression, more reluctance to do things or go out, a greater need for a sense of control (could look like defiance at home or at school), irritability/anger or withdrawing into self or preferred activities. Consult with a psychologist or doctor if your child appears to be struggling for an extended period of time.
Dr. Clark R. Goldstein, Ph.D., is the founder of Growth Psychology and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine at the Child Study Center. He specializes in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders in children, teens, and adults.
Please take a moment to read his quick article below if your child is struggling with worries or anxiety or unexpected behaviours right now.
"The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it." https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/
**The tips in this article could also apply to worries or struggles related to navigating friendships at school. The only point I would like to add to is #6 in the article when he gives the example about having anxiety after a negative experience with a dog. Depending on the circumstance, you may need to seek professional help for your child especially if there is past trauma. Another option is to provide safe and controlled opportunities to practice skills and build confidence in their ability to handle potentially unsafe situations. However, modelling confident body language and resilient behaviours is still a helpful tip for parents of children who are struggling with anxiety.