Anxiety in the Classroom – It Could Be Stopping your Child from Learning!

In honour of R U OK Day this month on September 14, this week’s blog will explore emotional difficulties children experience, specifically anxiety, and how this impacts their learning.

Kids are no different from adults when it comes to experiencing difficulties or worry, and parents are in the best position to identify issues with a child’s emotions, thoughts or behaviours.

According to Beyond Blue, it is normal for kids to experience a wide range of emotions and behaviours as they grow and develop, but if children are persistently showing signs listed below, and their difficulties are disrupting daily routines for a prolonged period of time, it is worth seeking advice from a health professional.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Frequent, unexplained tantrums
  • Avoiding friends or family, wanting to be alone most of the time
  • Refusing to go to school or preschool (very often)
  • Unusual fears or fixating on ‘scary’ situations unlikely to occur
  • Sadness and feelings of hopelessness
  • Frequent aggressive reactions
  • Difficulty with concentration, attention and organisation

Learning & Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly faced mental health issue throughout childhood and adolescence. There are many reasons why a child may experience some form of worry or stress, and though anxiety is a normal part of life, when it causes emotional pain or suffering, limits functioning and one’s ability to learn and enjoy the school environment, it requires intervention.

Anxiety among children can be due to many reasons, such as:

  • Having a learning disability (studies have suggested between 30-50% of people with a learning disability have anxiety often related to chronic underachievement)
  • Having another neurodevelopmental disorder (ADHD or Autism) can lead to isolation or social struggles which can result anxious feelings at school
  • Having an anxiety disorder; this can be for many complex factors such as heredity, biology, personality traits etc.
  • Dealing with family or issues at home, such as significant life changes e.g. divorce, moving to a new school, losing a loved one.
  • Struggling with the pressure at school to achieve and be evaluated and tested
  • Being peer pressured, bullied or isolated from friends
  • Not getting along with a teacher

The effects of severe anxiety on children may include missing out on important schoolwork and lessons (thus stunting their intellectual development and academic achievement), struggling to relate to peers, and an increase in frustration or stress at home among the family. Down the track, if children experiencing anxiety are left unsupported, it can lead to low self-esteem and difficulties achieving their personal and professional goals as an adult.

Tips to Support Kids with Anxiety

At home, parents can support their kids who may be experiencing excessive worry of anxious feelings, particularly stress concerning learning and going to school. Studies have found parental support has a positive impact on both a student’s academic achievement and motivation..

Here are 4 empowering strategies parents can implement to support kids experiencing anxiety at home:

  1. Create a safe and comfortable home environment to build on the learning at school, provide educational support and engage in fun learning activities to reduce focus on academic performance e.g. learn through play.
  2. Embrace and support their strengths and interests. Let your child learn in a way they enjoy, e.g. let them choose the toys to play with, card/board games that make learning fun, or their favourite setting in the home to complete homework comfortably.
  3. Cultivate resilience and foster “Yes, I can” attitudes through positive self-talk such as ”I can do this”, “I feel safe” or “I am calm”.
  4. When homework becomes too hard, use relaxation techniques with your child, like simple deep breathing. Breathe in deeply on counts of 1,2,3,4 and then breathe out on counts of 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Click here to find out more about anxiety and learning!

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