Anxiety at school is not a new phenomenon; however, educators and parents alike recognise that there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of anxiety among children in the past year, as a result of Covid-19.
Anxiety is not to be dismissed or taken lightly, but the good news is that parents and teachers can take steps to ensure they firstly, recognise red flags in children and then respond appropriately.
“Teachers and parents can recognise the onset of anxiety when a sudden change in behaviour becomes apparent and continues for at least three weeks or longer,” says Dr Jacques Mostert who holds a PhD in Psychology of Education and is Brand Academic Manager at ADvTECH, SA’s leading private education provider.
He says some of the signs to look out for include inattention and restlessness; attendance problems and clingy kids; disruptive behaviour that is not typical of the young person; trouble answering questions in class or a marked downturn in academic performance. Finally, if a child starts avoiding socialising or group work, attention must be paid.
“Anxiety is your body’s internal alarm system that is set to alert you of dangers that may be life threatening. However, your internal alarm is not very good at recognising whether the danger is indeed life threatening or not. For example, your body reacts by becoming nervous about being late to school and seeing a big spider in the bathroom in the same way.”
“The news and social media are filled with reports of the danger of Covid-19. Even young children who don’t watch news still pick up on the concerns of the adults around them.”
If a parent has concerns about the anxiety of a child, they need to start tackling the problem at home, says Dr Mostert.
“The first important step is to reinstate regular routines. Nobody copes well when they are tired or hungry. Anxious children often don’t feel like eating breakfast, they might not feel hungry, or become nauseous after eating, so start making sure that your child gets back in the habit of getting some nutrition before school.”
“Also, make sure that your child wakes up early enough to avoid rushing. You must ensure that your child goes to bed early enough, at a regular time. If your child spends hours before going to sleep on a device or social media, this is a habit that needs to end.”
“Avoid making light of their (and your own) anxiety by saying there’s nothing to be worried about. Instead, listen to them, acknowledge their feelings, and encourage your child to work through ways of solving their concerns with your help.”
In addition, there are practical ways to deal with anxiety in the moment, which include:
Practising deep breathing
- Taking a break and going outside
- Talking about anxiety openly and objectively
- Getting moving
- Walking and talking
- Practising positive thinking and keeping a gratitude journal
- Trying to eat as healthy as is possible and drinking enough water
- Helping your child through anxious periods is possible and an important part of their growth towards maturity.
Issued by: Meropa