It is becoming more common to hear my clients explain to me about how their child is not managing well with school. These children are as young as kindergarteners. They complain of tummy aches daily, beg not to be dropped off, or become a different child under the eyes of the teacher. Parent-teacher conferences are leading parents to wonder what is wrong. There may be behavior issues, refusal to complete work, ADHD tendencies, isolation or seclusion, and/or little attempts to learn the material, leading to a believed learning disorder. Many families struggling with these challenges speak with their pediatrician and turn to medication for better focusing, or use threats of losing privileges if the child doesn’t ‘do better’ or perform to standard. I talk a lot about the anxiety a child may be feeling, and how that anxiety could be the root of all the challenges.
School-related anxiety is a very real thing today. Separation anxiety, performance anxiety, and social anxiety can impact our children in a large manner. If you believe that the mind and body are one unit working together, then you understand just how important it is for the body to be in perfect alignment so all neurons firing can reach their desired destinations. Anxiety is not only mental, but it relates to the physical body, causing personality alterations and even chronic pains or illnesses.
It can be hard to diagnose school-related anxiety because it tends to surface in different ways for different children, but the most common problem for children suffering from anxiety is that school is hard. It becomes harder the longer the anxiety goes unnoticed.
According to the Child Mind Institute, signs of anxiety in school-aged children include: http://childmind.org/article/classroom-anxiety-in-children/
- Attendance Problems
- Disruptive Behavior
- Trouble Answering Questions in Class
- Frequent Trips to the School Nurse
- Problems in Certain Subjects
- Lying About Homework/Not Completing Work
- Avoiding Socialization/Not Making Friends
- Asking to Stay Home
- Bullying/Being Bullied
These signs can be linked to any of the following types of anxiety:
- Separation anxiety: Worried about being separated from the parents.
- Social anxiety: Excessively self-conscious, making it difficult to participate in class and socialize with others.
- Selective mutism: Having a hard time speaking in some settings, like at school around the teacher.
- Generalized anxiety: Worrying about performance and perfectionism.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When children’s minds are filled with unwanted and stressful thoughts.
- Specific phobias: When children have an excessive and irrational fear of particular things, like being afraid of animals or storms.
There is, of course, a normal amount of anxiety that can be felt, but even that can manifest itself. Utilizing chiropractic care will allow the body to work as a whole unit and provide proper pathways for the nervous system, allowing for a healthier overall well-being. Chiropractic care reduces stress-related subluxations in children just as it does in adults.
In addition to chiropractic care, there are numerous ways you can help your child manage their anxiety.
Open Communication. Talking about your own hard days, finding happiness in situations, and how you talk yourself through things will provide a positive example and allow for them to come to you with questions and emotional struggles.
Self-Confidence Building. The key to coping with and minimizing anxiety in your child is to teach them to talk their way through it. “I am strong. I am kind. I will learn something new and smile today.” You can alter the talk to suit your child’s needs, but it is important to follow the day with a second talk. This one should be in response to how the day went – but always taking a positive outlook and including happy things to dream about and plan for the following day.
Talk positive about school, friendships, and learning. Modeling positive feelings can have a large impact on your child.
Do not ask probing questions about your child’s anxiety. Questions such as, “Why are you feeling this way? What’s wrong? Why don’t you want to go to school” can cause more stress and will not help you help your child. Instead stick with simple questions that can invoke positive answers. “Are others including you? Is something happening at lunch that makes you feel bad?”
Be there. Let your child know that you will be there for lunch, recess, or another specific time frame and be sure to follow through. Seeing you may ease the anxiety. This may not be convenient, but it can be very important to gradually helping your child adapt and feel more comfortable.
Talk to the teacher. Work as a team to help your child feel more comfortable at school.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. By eating a well-balanced diet and keeping the body healthy with the highest quality supplements, the body will function at its highest potential.
Respect your child. Ultimately, your child deserves your respect and support. Figuring out how to help without breaking your child’s spirit or forcing them against their will may be the hardest obstacle you are faced with during this phase of parenthood, but you can do it.