Although childhood should be a carefree time of innocence and enjoyment, for many it is a time of fretfulness and worry. The number of children and adolescents dealing with an anxiety disorder has risen steadily over the past three decades until today one out of eight kids are expected to struggle with disordered anxiety (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Around one quarter of adolescents will likely experience some degree of anxiety disorder (National Institute of Mental Health) and two to five percent of younger children will have anxiety so severe that they refuse to attend school or repeatedly get themselves sent home.
Beyond Common Anxiety
School anxiety is more than worrying about an upcoming quiz, having nerves before a track meet or wondering about who likes you. Disordered anxiety persists beyond what would be considered a reasonable or common time frame and extends into multiple facets of school life. It negatively affects the students’ ability to concentrate, learn and perform on a regular basis.
Signs that your child may be struggling with excessive anxiety include repeated, unexplained health complaints such as headache or stomach upset. These complaints could be genuine effects of continual high anxiety, or they could be invented excuses for avoiding school. The child may complain to parents hoping to stay home or to the school nurse hoping to be sent home. Some kids will even drop out of high school and earn an equivalency rather than face the stress of attending classes.
What Parents Can Do
You can’t make your child’s anxieties disappear, but there are things you can do. For starters, acknowledge your child’s fears without letting them dictate behavior (such as staying home). Next, focus on positives about school – events, funny teachers, a science field trip. Your own attitude toward school is more important than you realize. The brain is wired to replay what it absorbs from the surroundings. In other words, your child is continually reading and reflecting your attitudes.
Finally, your child will benefit from learning to recognize and cope with fears and stress. At Family Guidance, we understand how an anxiety disorder affects your child and your family. And we know how to help. Call us today.