Updated: Jan 7, 2020
We have two children whose anxiety peaks at different times. My eldest's anxiety reaches its highest point before the school year comes to a close and then throughout the summer school holidays.
Questions and statements I constantly hear:
"Will I get a good teacher?"
"Will my teacher understand how I learn?"
"Will Maths be really hard?"
"I'm worried that they'll do hard spelling."
At a learning level, if anxiety is not managed and dealt with, it can impact on a child's ability to learn, their working memory and processing ability, which can bring about task-avoidance.
Anxiety in children is normal. Worries become more prevalent in children over 8 years as they start to imagine the future and potential bad things that can happen (read more here ).
"Remember, the goal for most kids isn't to eliminate anxiety completely. It's really about giving them the skills to manage anxiety so it doesn't get in the way of enjoying life." (Beyond Blue)
I have put together 5 simple and achievable strategies that will support and foster your child's well-being, especially when they're experiencing anxiety. I feel that these are the strategies that will create the biggest impact:
1. PARENT CONNECTION
Quality is key here. Ensure you make family time for talking, listening and participating in activities together. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but could include:
Have dinner together at the table.
Take walks together.
Fix things together.
Watch movies together.
Play games together.
Take family trips.
Location: Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains National Park.
I can't stress enough how important it is to stay well-connected to your children as they get older; continue to be interested and vested in their education. Communication skills are highly necessary in the pre-teen and teen years which are often fraught with uncertainty and peer pressure - mix in some hormones and you've got yourself some intense times!
And last but not least, ensure that you look after your own well-being. Unfortunately parenting does't always allow this. I aim to nourish myself with good food, good reads, good people and good humour - I'm a girl with simple needs!
Journals can be a helpful tool to help manage anxiety for both children and adults. I find using a template for my child's journal helps to articulate her thoughts and feelings - see below image. (It also has the added benefit of getting some writing practise in before she returns to school!)
And let's not forget sleep. Mindfulness activities can improve sleep. Good amounts of sleep can also improve daily well-being and reduce anxiety!
One of the dreams that I had for my family when we moved to the Blue Mountains was to walk through nature and not a concrete environment. I yearned to feel grounded and not so wound up. Nowadays, we walk to-and-from school (which usually involves some whingeing!) as it allows our children to de-stress and feel supported before and after their day. The cherry on top is when we walk with our neighbours. It makes us feel connected to our community. Loneliness and isolation is a reality ...and not just for adults.
Location: Jamison Valley, Blue Mountains National Park.
Let me start off by pointing out that as an educator there are positive benefits to technology, especially for those those who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Technology needs to be carefully monitored especially around social media, inappropriate content and over-use. Keeping our children safe is of paramount importance (refer here for further information). Providing real human connections for your children is important for their social development. There is enough evidence around that links anxiety in children and social media use. I would encourage you to monitor usage and not to be complacent. Up-skill yourself and your children.
'...technology may be both the cause and solution to all of life’s problems. Technology makes our lives more certain, convenient, and entertaining, but we lose out on chances to practice coping with uncertainty, inconvenience, and boredom.' (PsychologyToday)
5. SCHOOL MANAGEMENT
Schools can be a wonderful place, but it can also be a source of anxiety for some. I highly encourage you to be as communicative with your child's teacher as possible; email is often the best mode of communication. An excellent teacher and/or executive staff can guide and support your child through it. From a teacher's perspective, I encourage parents to be an active participant in their children's education, praise efforts no matter how big and be aware and ready to act when your child needs support. Bear in mind, mental health days are for children too, not just adults.
For those with a disability...
A recent study by Griffith University has found that 4 out of 5 children on the autism spectrum are anxious at school. There are growing concerns from parents and teachers about schools not equipped and skilled to support those students with a disability, even though the Disability Standards for Education states that students with a disability have the right to the same educational opportunities as other school students.
For students with disability and additional learning needs, reasonable adjustments should be made where required.
When these standards are not followed this can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for the family. I have experienced this with my own children and it was a very stressful and scarring time.
Did you know? I offer parent mentoring services where I can be present with you at your child's school meeting to help discuss and plan their educational supports at school. Contact me to discuss how I can be the advocate for your child.