Dr. Dana Leonardi, Psychologist Yorktown Heights discusses School and Anxiety. Well, school has started and the school-time routines have resumed. Some parents and kids settle into the routine of school without much difficulty while others have a much more difficult time. For so many kids school brings on varying degrees of worry and fear. More and more I see children and adolescents having difficulty functioning in school due to anxiety. It seems that there is pressure coming from all directions and it can become so overwhelming for them. I thought it might be helpful to give parents, teachers, and the kids themselves some of my thoughts on what is causing such stress and anxiety and some tips to help manage it.
Academic pressure has become a serious issue. The new, more difficult state testing has changed the way teachers are teaching. I have heard many teachers say that they have to teach for the tests making it more difficult for students who experience any degree of difficulty in learning a specific concept or skill. One teacher told me that they are expected to follow a strict curriculum and if a child is having difficulty they are not able to stop and help because it will put them behind. This puts pressure on our teachers which trickles down to the kids causing stress and anxiety.
Many kids that I see are over scheduled with activities. They go to school all day and then have after school activities such as dance, sports, gymnastics, and singing lessons and after they do all that they have to go home and do homework. Stress, stress, and more stress.
If you have had a child who has already gone off to college you understand just how stressful the process of looking at and applying to colleges can be. For many kids there is the added anxiety of getting into to a college that is equally good or better than their friends. That adds another layer of anxiety. If they play sports in high school and want to play in college add yet another layer.
Social pressure is also a contributing factor in the stress level of kids (parents as well). The use of facebook, twitter, instagram, texting, and whatever else kids are using creates a whole new set of problems. I hear from kids that they never turn off their cell phones and often get messages in the middle of the night. They feel they NEED to be available or they might miss out on something important. How is this a problem? Well, kids never get any down time. They are always “on” and alert, even when sleeping. I heard on the news today that “sleep texting” is a new issue, kind of like sleep walking. We need to disconnect and just relax and parents need to teach their children the importance of being disconnected. Of course parents will also have to disconnect and lead by example.
So, what do we do to help these kids? First, it is really important for kids of all ages to have family time. Family dinners are a great time for parents and kids to connect. It is so important that there be a no cell phone or electronics rule for both the parents and the kids during family time. Second, parents need to limit the after school activities (this has the added benefit of teaching kids how to make choices and cope with not getting everything they want). Third, parents need to have realistic expectations for their kids. If your kid is working really hard and getting B’s then be happy with the B rather than pushing them for that A. Put the emphasis on effort rather than outcome. Forth, parents need to be looking for signs of anxiety and seek help before the problem gets out of hand. There are many beneficial therapies that can teach kids (and adults) to manage stress and lower anxiety levels.
Being a young person today is so much more difficult than it used to be. We need to be sure that the kids of today (who will be the adults of tomorrow) are happy, healthy, and productive. Below is a list of warning signs to look out for.
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased aggression
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Not wanting to go to school
- Frequent complains of not feeling well
- Spending excessive time on homework
School and Anxiety, Dr. Dana Leonardi Psychologist Yorktown Heights. If your child is having issues with school and anxiety, please call Dr. Dana Leonardi at 914-924-0238