7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school
As COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted, some children may experience social anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.
People with social anxiety may fear embarrassment or the expectation to perform in social situations, or worry exceedingly about people judging you poorly.
In certain situations, people with anxiety may find their heart beats quicker as adrenalin is released into their blood stream, more oxygen flows to the blood and brain, and even digestion may slow down.
These are helpful responses if you need to run away or fight danger. But social situations are generally not life threatening, and these physical symptoms can interfere with socialising.
People with social anxiety may fear looking silly, being judged, laughed at or being the focus of attention. For anyone, such experiences might be unwelcome but for those with social anxiety they pose an unacceptable threat.
Social anxiety in Australian children
One Australian report found that about 6.9% of children and adolescents surveyed have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, 4.3% experience separation anxiety and 2.3% a social phobia.
Social phobia (social anxiety) is more common in adolescents, whereas separation anxiety (intense anxiety over leaving caregivers, such as parents) is more prevalent in children.
These figures only account for those who have a diagnosis of anxiety. They do not include undiagnosed young people who experience high stress in social situations.
Any recent prolonged absence from school may have increased social anxiety, as avoiding what you fear can make your fear become greater.
This is because you do not get to learn that the thing you fear is actually safe. Your beliefs about the threat go unchallenged.
Anxiety can also increase through what pyschologists call reduced tolerance. The more children withdraw from the situations that cause them fear, the less tolerance they have for those situations.
Anxiety can affect education
The educational cost for students with anxiety is considerable.
The research shows students with poor mental health can be between seven to 11 months behind in Year 3, and 1.5—2.8 years behind by Year 9.
That’s because these students experience more absences from school, poorer connection to school, lower levels of belonging and less engagement with schoolwork.
7 strategies to help overcome social anxiety
So what can children do to overcome anxiety as they return to school? Here are some useful tips.
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