Children of all ages can experience school anxiety. At the onset of a new school year, it’s normal to have first-day-of-school anxiety about all the changes they are going to face – unexplored territory, a new set of faces in the classroom, unfamiliar teachers and teaching styles, more challenging school subjects, etc.
While mild apprehension is expected, especially during the first few weeks, it is your role as parent to observe your child’s behavior to determine when this anxiety becomes too much and should be addressed by a professional.
When should you consider hire professional help for your child?
It should come as no surprise that anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that affects school-age children. Everyone experiences some level of anxiety from time to time, especially during the more stressful periods of life. This occasional anxiety can be a positive thing, though. Without this anxiety, we may not take proper precaution during certain situations or feel motivated to do our best in others. It’s when anxiety starts to interfere with daily life where it becomes a problem.
Your child may not be able to identify when anxiety is handicapping their day-to-day lives, which is why it is important that you are observing their behavior on a continuous basis. If these symptoms only persist for the first few weeks of a new school year, there may be no cause for concern. It is when these behaviors persist after a couple of weeks that it may be time to seek treatment. If not dealt with early on, anxiety disorders can manifest in other ways as your child gets older, leading to more serious issues like clinical depression.
How is this kind of anxiety treated?
There are a variety of different treatment methods for this type of anxiety in children. I, personally, prefer to approach treatment through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Through this treatment, a child is encouraged to talk through their problems and, with the help of a professional, works to change the way in which they think and behave. Depending on your child’s age, it may affect exactly how this type of therapy is given – whether it be individually, with a parent, or in a group.
What can you do to help raise an anxious child at home?
Seeking professional help for your child was the first – and most monumental – step in helping them deal with their anxiety. While the professional will deal with the most rigorous part of treatment, there are a few things that you can do at home to help your child:
- Don’t completely shield them. As their parent, you want to do anything you can to protect them. However, shielding them completely for their problems is only going to make things worse.
- Talk to them about your experiences. It may be comforting for your child to hear that you, too, deal with anxiety every now and then. If you are going to discuss a specific situation with them, make sure that you share how you worked to alleviate the anxiety as well.
- Praise them. If your child shares with you a story of coping with their anxiety (or you see it happen), make sure to praise them!