With the holidays coming up, end of semester exams, thoughts of travel, and being away from friends for a couple of weeks, I thought that this week was appropriate to talk about some interventions for anxiety in our kiddos.
The holidays often bring about anxiety for everyone… for a variety of reasons. However, when children under the age of 18 begin to have anxiety that interferes with their daily activities, we, as educators and parents, often want to step in and rescue them. When, in reality, sometimes all that is needed is to give that child a way to cope with what is affecting them. Here are some ideas for doing just that:
- Make sure the student knows who they can go to at their school. It could be a trusted teacher, the counselor, the school social worker, or the school psychologist.
- Identify a “safe” place where the student may go to reduce anxiety during stressful periods. Developing guidelines for appropriate use of the safe place will help both the student and staff. In one of my schools, there is a room that is used for de-stressing in the counselor’s suite.
- Teach the student relaxation techniques they can do at school….to help reduce anxiety at school. Make sure the student feels comfortable with these techniques so that they can be employed in and out of school. such as deep breathing exercises. Talk with parents about the techniques used at home and try to incorporate them into the classroom.
- Encourage the student to take an active role in developing interventions. Enlisting the student in the task will lead to more successful strategies and will foster the child’s ability to problem-solve. If the student feels like their opinion counts, they may be more likely to participate in the plan. Having the student discuss strategies may help them to be involved in reducing their anxiety symptoms. This also provides the student an opportunity to talk about situations that cause anxiety symptoms as well as for them to be more aware of their symptom
- Reward a student’s efforts. Every good effort deserves to be praised. This looks a little different than praising them for a good grade. It may be that a trusted teacher or other staff member checks in with the student on a daily basis to see their progress and give them positive feedback on their goals. When a child shows effort or is able to control their anxiety symptoms through interventions, let them know you have noticed and are proud of their efforts.
- Be aware of physical symptoms of anxiety and provide activities to distract the student. Calming activities, such as, reading or listening to music may help to alleviate some of the physical symptoms and allow a student to return to class work after a period of time.
- Allow a few minutes at the beginning of the day for the student to transition into the school day. Additional transitional periods might be necessary for other times when routine is disrupted. This can be providing five to ten minutes for the child to prepare their papers and school supplies or simply a few minutes for the child to sit quietly before the school day begins. If the time before school is difficult for the child, it may be beneficial for them to either enter the classroom a few minutes before or a few minutes after the rest of the class arrives.
- For students avoiding school because of anxiety, offer suggestions such as coming to school for a shorter day. The longer the student avoids going to school, the more difficult it is for them to return. Allowing them to come to school for shorter periods will give them a chance to face their fears but may make it easier if they know they will be able to return home at lunchtime.
- Discuss anxiety symptoms privately with the student. Never single out a student or call attention to their anxiety in front of the class. This can cause humiliation or embarrassment and increase anxiety symptoms.
- Discuss alternative ways of handling situations. Talk to the student after an anxiety attack about how the situation could have been different or what strategies could have been used (by both the student and the teacher) to make the situation better.
- Find books that address children with anxiety. Incorporate these books into reading curriculum. This not only helps the child with anxiety to feel better about their anxiety but also can help the other students in the class be more understanding of the condition.
- Teach positive self-talk. Helping students to be aware of the negative way they talk to themselves, such as the use of “I can’t” and help them to develop a more positive way of talking to themselves.
- Help students break assignments down into smaller segments. This can help to decrease feeling overwhelmed by large assignments and help a student work on each section.
- Play soothing music during down time. Many times playing soft music can help students to calm down and can relieve stress. During quiet activities or seatwork, use soothing music.
- Incorporate exercise into the school day. Stop lessons for a few minutes or do stretching exercises in between lessons. This can help reduce stress.
- Use computerized reading programs. For students who also struggle to read, allowing them time to work on their own rather than in a large group can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Post the daily routine in the classroom and let students know in advance any changes in the schedule. Letting students know exactly what is expected will help lessen anxiety. For a student with anxiety, a sudden change can cause a panic attack. Knowing in advance what the day will be like will help in transitions.
I hope these ideas are helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Have a great week!!