Anxiety is a common problem amongst children and adolescence. In fact, it’s estimated that around one in 14 children struggle with anxiety, making it likely that there’s at least one or two in every classroom.
This is even more true now, given the unprecedented uncertainty and worry that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.
Anxiety makes us feel worried, afraid, nervous, shy or sad, with an underlying fear that something bad will happen. It’s important to remember that having these feelings is a normal part of a child’s development and in most cases, the anxiety is short-lived.
Anxiety becomes an issue when the child continues to experience intense feelings and it starts to interfere with aspects of their daily life, including:
If left untreated, anxiety can have a number of negative, long-term consequences for the child, their overall wellbeing and ability to learn.
Early intervention helps to reduce anxiety and improve the outcome for the child. Many of the skills needed to address anxiety can be taught from a young age.
During the COVID-19 crisis, children and families have faced significant and ongoing changes to life at home, school, work and in the community. Both change and uncertainty can be big causes of anxiety, which means many children, including those who may not have previously had feelings of anxiety, may have new worries about:
Many adults are also feeling the same types of worries, so the situation has certainly put additional pressure on all of us to be aware of our feelings, and how children are coping both at home and in the classroom.
There are some simple things that teachers can do to support students with anxiety or worries about COVID-19 in the classroom:
At the moment, it’s easy to think about all the negative things, rather than having a positive outlook for the future. Thinking about the negatives can lead to increased worry and stress, so encouraging positive thinking in the classroom can be a great activity to support students’ wellbeing.
The activity is simple:
You could make it a Monday morning or Friday afternoon exercise, and at the end of the term or year, use it as an opportunity for students to reflect on everyone’s successes during these challenging times.
It is important for teachers to put some measures in place to support their class, given the uncertainty of when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over. These tips and exercises can make a real difference for students who are feeling anxious in the classroom.
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