Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Recognizing Anxiety in Children

It is normal for children to feel anxious at times.  Examples of 'normal stress' include the beginning of the school year, having to stand up to present a report, or getting called on to answer questions in class.

However, 'bad stress' occurs when children feel anxious for prolonged periods of time and aren't able to effectively manage what they are feeling.  When this happens, the anxiety they feel can interfere with their school work, social interactions, class behavior, and self-esteem.  As teachers, we need to know what the symptoms of anxiety in children are, recognize when the children become anxious, and help them manage how they feel.

Childhood Anxiety

As adults, we have the ability to know and express how we are feeling.  When we are feeling stressed or anxious, we are able to say, "OMG... I am so insanely stressed right now!"  Unfortunately, young children don't always have the words to express how they feel.  They will show their anxiety through their behavior... not necessarily through their words.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

According to the National Health Service in England (the NHS), symptoms of anxiety in children include:
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • not sleeping well at home
  • not eating properly at school or at home
  • getting angry and irritable
  • being out of control during emotional outbursts
  • worrying
  • having negative thoughts
  • feeling tense and fidgety
  • using the toilet often
  • crying easily
  • being clingy with others (students or staff)
  • complaining of stomach aches and not feeling well
A lot of these symptoms mimic 'bad behavior.'  The next time a child misbehaves in class, take a second or two to ask yourself why he/she is acting out.  Is the child truly being naughty or is the behavior a symptom of anxiety?

Quote from Russell Barkley

When you have a student in your class who is feeling a lot of anxiety, what are some of the strategies you use to help them cope?  Feel free to share some of your favorite strategies in the comments below!

Kelly's Classroom Online
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