I’ve provided therapy services in middle schools for several years. One trend I’ve noticed is an increase of anxiety in boys. It typically starts in the beginning of the school year and if unaddressed can significantly interrupt attendance and academic performance.
Our culture teaches boys that they have to be strong and unemotional. That puts a great deal of pressure on a young, developing child. Unfortunately, there are occurrences in a child’s life ,and in the world that can make one more vulnerable to anxiety. The following are common signs of anxiety: crying, irrational fear, rapid heartbeat, shakiness, upset stomach, school refusal, agitation, or other vague complaints. Anxiety should never be swept under the carpet. The physical symptoms can symptoms can be frightening and overwhelming to a child.
Parents play an important part in helping a child to conquer anxiety. If your child has an anxiety disorder, there’s a good chance that you do too. It’s important that you practice managing your own anxiety. This will enable you to be better equipped to help your child. An anxious child will feed off of your anxiety, and it’s important to model healthy self-care. You can practice relaxation techniques with your child and that way, you’re both taking charge of your anxiety.
What should you do if your child refuses to go to school because of anxiety? You should inform the school of your child’s condition. Most schools have professionals who can help. It is important that you remain positive, no matter how challenging the school refusal becomes. Your child needs reassurance that all will be okay. Ask your child to describe their biggest fears. This will allow you to help your child develop thoughts that are more realistic and less anxiety provoking. Often times, it’s our thoughts that contribute to anxiety. Here’s an example,
Kid–“No one will like me”. You can help your child to see that this is jumping to conclusions and give examples of how they’ve encountered new situations in the past. They need you to point out that how they’ve managed to meet friends in the past. It is important to help your child focus on strengths and accepting their weaknesses. Remind them that no matter what it looks like, everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
Do not give into your child’s attempt to avoid school. This only reinforces the anxiety and sends the message that they can’t handle it. While this might be extremely challenging, you should not give your child the option of attending school. This is where school staff and on site therapists can be helpful. They can provide support, check in with your child throughout the day. You can also create a plan where your child is permitted to call you for a brief check in. This should be no more than 2 times during the course of the day and part of the plan should include decreasing the need to call.
Is medication necessary? Sometimes it is. Anxiety can be debilitating and if not managed, it causes unnecessary suffering. If your child is struggling to get on top of the anxiety with relaxation techniques and therapy, it might be a good idea to get an evaluation for medication. The most common medications used to treat children are: Prozac, Paxil, clonopine, Buspar among others. Your primary care doctor can prescribe these medications as well as nurse practitioners and psychiatrists. In most areas, there is a shortage of psychiatrists who work with children, so mental health professionals often suggest other licensed prescribers. Talk to your prescriber about your concerns, the potential side-effects and the benefits.
Lastly, do not hesitate to get your child and family in therapy. Therapy should be the first choice in helping an anxious child. The therapist will help guide your family in helping your child get better and feel more in control. Often anxiety is a lifelong condition, so learning how to manage it early on will ensure your child’s success throughout life.
We offer therapy in schools and are in over 50 Delaware schools. We can help your child to be successful, overcome challenges including anxiety and so much more. Not only do we work with the child, we’ll work with your entire family. Call us for more information 302-292-1334 X 0 . If we’re in your child’s school, we’ll get you connected with the assigned therapist. If we’re not, we offer superb services in our private office.