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~ Harvard Graduate School of Education
Teachers, guidance counselors, school social workers, and administrators can attest to this startling phenomenon. Every day they encounter students struggling with anxiety, the most common emotional disorder among children across the nation.
One elementary school teacher says he’s noticed a significant increase over the past two decades with a higher prevalence of separation anxiety, panic, phobias and generalized anxiety disorder in his students. And he’s found the severity has increased, too. “Learners used to come to school with anxiety issues that a regular classroom teacher could begin to help solve, but now the challenges are often serious enough to require school counselors, psychologists or administration.”
In our Anxiety in Schools podcast series, Dr. Stephanie Eken offers expert guidance on the cause of anxiety in the educational setting, along with specific tips for helping students—and their families—overcome barriers caused by anxiety.
Dr. Eken explains that one personality trait can start as a positive and motivating characteristic but can evolve into a troubling condition. “Some people use perfectionism to their advantage, but if it becomes over-the-top and you become very anxious, people will perhaps avoid school or procrastinate because they can’t do something perfectly.”
Educators and parents can be vigilant to specific warning signs for anxiety and seek out tools to support at-risk students. For example, when debilitating stress accompanies test taking, there are documented benefits for offering accommodations such as additional time for completing an exam or providing a room free of distractions.
There’s value in educators and parents working together, giving parents guidance on how to best interact with a child suffering from anxiety. When strategies in the school and home settings aren’t working, Dr. Eken explains that educators are in a good position to suggest that the child may need counseling from a clinician.
No one likes feeling anxious, and being able to prevent an anxiety attack can help individuals build confidence and resilience. Here are some strategies and tactics you can deploy to help your students manage anxiety in the classroom:
In addition, Dr. Eken reminds us of the importance of schools and parents working together to help kids find balance. “Kids need to play; they need to be off of their computers; they need to be off of screens,” urged Dr. Eken. “So, even just helping kids think about and problem solve for themselves about how they can complete work for school and have balance. And that balance is what’s so critical for all of us as human beings in terms of managing stress,” she adds.
To learn more, listen to our Anxiety in Schools podcast series.
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