Reality of Anxiety Among Students

Although it is completely accurate to state that depression and anxiety increased during the Pandemic, studies show that from 2016-2019 depression and anxiety increased among adolescents and children by 24-27 percent. Students experience anxiety at a higher percentage than depression. The students I work with deal with learning differences which cause them varying degrees of anxiety in the classroom every day. Some may only experience occasional minor instances, while others experience extreme anxiety. How can we help them?

First and foremost, it is important to identify signs of anxiety. Everyone is different. As a teacher for several decades, I’ve seen many indications of anxiety among my students. The class clown who attempts to deflect attention from academic struggles. The student who has a stomachache or headache every day. Rebellious attitudes and refusal to complete class work or homework. Withdrawing from friends/family or becoming a bully. These are just some examples of behavior that can be associated with anxiety.

Most students may not be able to identify the feeling of anxiety, but they will exhibit some behavior as their coping behavior. As adults, we have life experiences that have helped us to identify our anxiousness. We may have our own unhealthy coping behaviors, some that our kids are exhibiting. However, we have the maturity, hopefully, to work through the issue and take healthy steps to work through the stressful issue or season. We may choose to exercise more, eat more healthy foods, avoid unhealthy relationships, or seek counseling. These are important behaviors we can also help our children to adopt.

Always validate their feelings and frustrations and help them to learn how to verbalize clearly in a healthy way how they are feeling and what is making them feel that way. I have a student who sometimes tells me she feels overwhelmed. When I first began working with her, she would get easily frustrated. However, now she can tell me how she feels because her parents communicate well with her and help her with her anxiety.

There is not an easy fix. Nevertheless, put yourself in their shoes for a day. Let’s say you are a fifth-grade boy who reads at a 2nd grade level. You are terrified that you will have to read anything out loud, even if it’s a sentence or a phrase Even when given something to read silently, it takes you at least twice as long to read it and you are never able to finish before the teacher begins to ask questions. Or let’s say you’re a third-grade girl and all of your girlfriends ace all of their spelling tests, they have beautiful handwriting, and love to write stories. Every day you try to hide your story because you know that most of your words are spelled wrong, you have a hard time forming your letters, and your handwriting is not pretty. Plus, it takes you forever just to write one sentence.

Please don’t ask you child to try harder. Most likely, they are working four times harder than anyone else in that classroom. That’s why they have a headache. That’s why they have a stomachache. That’s why they don’t want to do their homework. Yes, they still have to do their work. Find tools that will help them (audiobooks, text to speech, speech to text, typing, read science, social studies, and math homework to them). Give them frequent breaks to combat fatigue. Physical activity is a great stress reliever or find a hobby that they love (art, music).

Unfortunately, anxiety is a reality among our students. Let’s take it seriously.

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