This week’s blog will explore the mental difficulties children experience, namely anxiety, and how this impacts their learning.
Kids are no different from you when it comes to feeling worry. Luckily, parents are in the best position to help a child’s with their feelings, thoughts or behaviours. According to Beyond Blue it is normal for kids to have a wide range of feelings and behaviours as they grow. However, if they are often showing any of the signs listed below, it is worth seeking advice from a health professional. Additionally, if these difficulties disrupt daily routines (i.e. anxiety and learning) for a prolonged period of time, advice should be sought.
Some signs to look out for include:
- Frequent tantrums
- Avoiding friends or family and/or wanting to be alone most of the time
- Often refusing to go to school or preschool
- Unusual fears or fixating on ‘scary’ event unlikely to happen
- Often angry
- Difficulty with focus and organisation
Learning and Anxiety
Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in childhood. There are many reasons why a child may feel some form of worry or stress. Although anxiety is a normal part of life, when it causes suffering, limits one’s ability to learn and enjoy themselves, it requires attention.
Anxiety among kids can be due to many reasons, such as:
- A learning disability (studies show that between 30-50% of people with a learning disability have anxiety)
- Another neurodevelopmental disorder (ADHD or Autism) can lead to isolation or social struggles
- An anxiety disorder; this can be for many complex factors such as heredity, biology, personality traits etc.
- Dealing with family or issues at home. This includes big life changes i.e. divorce, moving to a new school, losing a loved one etc.
- Struggling with the pressure at school to achieve and be tested
- Being peer pressured, bullied or isolated from friends
- Not getting along with a teacher
The effects of severe anxiety on kids may include missing out on important schoolwork and lessons. Thus stunting their mental growth. Likewise, struggling to relate to peers, and an increase in stress at home among the family. If kids with anxiety are left unsupported, it can lead to lifetime difficulties of achieving their personal and professional goals.
Tips to Support Kids with Anxiety
Studies have found that parental support has a positive impact on both a student’s academic achievement and motivation.
Here are 4 tips parents can try at home to help kids with anxiety:
- Create a safe space at home to build on the learning at school. On the other hand, engage in fun learning activities to reduce focus on academic performance i.e. learn through play.
- Embrace and support their strengths and interests. Let your child learn in a way they enjoy. For example, let them choose the toys that make learning fun.
- Build resilience and “Yes, I can” attitudes through positive self-talk such as ”I can do this”.
- When homework is too hard, use relaxation techniques with your child. For example, breathe in deeply on counts of 1-4 and then breathe out on counts of 1-6.
Hajizadehanari, K. (2013). Anxiety disorders in children with learning disabilities (LD) and autism (ASD). The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 5(2), 937-945. doi:10.15405/ejsbs.68
MAYER, D. P. M., & Peters, M. D. (2008). Overcoming school anxiety : how to help your child deal with separation, tests, homework, bullies, math phobia, and other worries. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Wang, C. W., & Neihart, M. (2015). How do supports from parents, teachers, and peers influence academic achievement of twice-exceptional students. Gifted Child Today, 38(3), 148-159. doi:10.1177/1076217515583742