School Anxiety and Stress
The start of a new school year brings many things, including school anxiety and stress. Statistics on school and mental health compiled by Youth.gov indicate that almost half of all American children meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, and among those kids, anxiety is the most common. School anxiety and stress are causing problems for many of our kids and adolescents.
School Anxiety and Stress are Real
As a former teacher, counselor, and current parent of two teens, I’ve had ample opportunities to see that the stress and school anxiety children and adolescents experience is very real. Sometimes well-meaning adults, hoping to help reduce school anxiety, brush off young people’s stress, dismissing it as “just nerves” or “simply reading into something.” A relatively common misconception is that only adults can be overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, but kids are too young to fully experience these conditions. Minimizing a child’s stress, though, doesn’t make it go away.
School is a child’s primary world. It’s where he or she spends most waking hours, and it involves navigating an entire, complicated system that consists of adults, children, learning, eating, being, doing, and interacting. No wonder a significant portion of children and adolescents experience substantial stress and school anxiety.
What School Anxiety and Stress Can Look Like
Delaney (name changed) was scared and reserved. Her parents and teacher reported that this second-grader had vague physical complaints: stomachaches, headaches, and aches and pains plagued her day and night, but doctors could find nothing wrong. She refused to interact with other kids, and she barely spoke at all the entire time she was at school. Delaney experienced so much stress and anxiety at school that she withdrew from the experience and turned inward.
Timothy (name changed) loved being the class clown. He enjoyed disrupting classes, especially when he was supposed to be working or taking tests. He seemed proud of his poor grades. While he wasn’t classified completely as a bully, his definition of fun included picking on people here and there. He hung around with lots of people and appeared social, but in reality, he didn’t feel close to anyone. When a group of people passed him after school without acknowledgement, he shrugged it off with a grin, wadded up the homework packet he was carrying, threw it at a random kid, and schlepped home.
Can School Anxiety and Stress be Treated?
The above examples are based on real students experiencing real anxiety. Each one is unique, drastically different from the other. School anxiety is real, and students of all ages experience stress. However, there are differences in how each individual manifests it.
Despite this, identifying and treating anxiety in school-age kids is possible. Identifying anxiety in students of all ages can help those students and the adults in their lives work as a team to beat it. School anxiety and stress exist, but they don’t have to limit kids’ lives.
In the next several posts, I’ll address school anxiety in different age groups. Tune in next week for a video discussing tips for helping kids with school anxiety.
NCC, T. (2015, August 20). School Anxiety and Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/08/school-anxiety-and-stress
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
I'm so glad you shared this insight because it needs to be heard. I couldn't agree with you more that the input of bus drivers should be actively sought out and heeded. The school system is just that -- a system. It consists of everyone in the child's life. Everyone in the system is a valuable part of kids' lives, and when key parts of the whole are forgotten or left out, there's a gap left. It needs to be filled! Keep speaking up, #jimthebusdriver.
Both the school environment and the "internal environment" of kids/teens are definitely varied and complex. And changing! Both the school environment and developmental stage of children are in constant flux, and mixed in with that are other aspects of the child's environment. You make a great point in mentioning the importance of monitoring change in kids. Each child is unique in how he/she manifests stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, plus kids display symptoms differently in different developmental stages. By knowing our kids and noticing changes, we can be on top of problems and help them with things like school anxiety.