Pennsylvania: School is back, Stay Aware of Common Anxiety Disorders

back to school

Back to school can be a chaotic and exciting time. It can also be overwhelming for children and adolescents. There are many signs that you could look for that show your child/student may be struggling or having a hard time. There are many common anxiety disorders in children that go unnoticed. Here are some helpful tips for teachers and parents to help the Children have a successful and fun year.

READ: Tips to Get Preschoolers on a Schedule

For the Teachers

  1. Anxiety disorders can cause students to feel distressed, scared, and nervous in the classroom, which makes it difficult for students to participate in class and get their school work completed. It may cause poor relationships with peers and teachers as well.
  2. Students with mental health conditions and/or having difficulties within their personal and home life may start missing a lot of school days, tardy to class, and may avoid school altogether.
  3. It can be difficult for you as teachers to provide quality one-on-one time with students daily as well as managing disruptive behaviors in the classroom. A key point is to understand that all behavior is purposeful, meaning that a student(s) are not just “a naughty kid(s)” or “lazy.” A good way to address this is to get into the mentality of “what’s going on with you” instead of “what’s wrong with you”. A helpful way to address this is to pull the student aside and calmly ask if everything is ok or if they need specific help in something.
  4. Communicate your observations and concerns with parents

For the Parents/Guardians

  1. If your child is struggling, communicate your concerns, observations, and diagnosis with their teacher.
  2. If you are worried about confidentiality, have a conversation with the teacher about your concerns and remind them that this information is to be kept confidential.
  3. Knowledge is power
    • Teachers care about your child on an academic level and personal level. Communicating your child’s struggles will help the teacher understand what is going on with the child, be more understanding, and can provide “check-ins”. This creates a safe place and person for the child.
  4. Depending on what you are comfortable with, helpful information to communicate to your child’s teacher may be:
    • If there is a change within the family unity: a death, divorce, the birth of a sibling, a new relative moving in/out, parents going on vacation, etc.
    • Behaviors you are seeing at home
    • Mental and chronic physical health diagnosis

A Plan That Helps

A plan is a written up to accommodate a child who is struggling emotionally, educationally, or has a disability to ensure they have access and resources to assist learning in the classroom. This is what we call a 504 plan. The goal of a 504 plan is for students to be educated in regular classrooms along with services, accommodations, or educational aids they may need. If students with a 504 plan cannot achieve academic success, as is determined by the school, then alternative settings in the school or private programs can be considered.

Idea’s to help make a successful year for the children:

  • Extended work time on assignments
  • Behavioral Management support
  • A quiet place for a student to work and/or test
  • Modified textbook or audio-video materials
  • Adjusted class schedules
  • Verbal testing
  • Excused lateness, absence, or missed classwork
  • Pre-approved nurse office visits and accompaniment to visit
  • Preferential seating
  • If you feel as though your child may benefit from a 504 plan, please contact your school’s teacher, guidance counselor, and/or principal.

Signs Your Child/Student May be Struggling Emotionally:

They may try Avoiding certain situations and/or assignments, they may be missing school or frequently late to school, not wanting to go home, and are extremely self-conscious. They have difficulty concentrating in class and/or completing classwork; they can become easily angered, have excessive tearfulness, or cry.
The children can also display physical symptoms such as trembling in their hands or legs and an upset stomach; you will notice them beginning to sweat, have a racing heart, start to breathe faster, and could tense their muscles.

Anxiety Disorders Affect Kids and Teens

  • Students worry excessively in many different situations the majority of the time. They may start demonstrating physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, frequent bathroom breaks, muscle tension, and tiredness are all signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
  • These students have an intense fear of being judged, observed, and performing/talking in front of others. The student will avoid situations in that they feel they could be embarrassed, humiliated, lead to rejection from others, or offend others such as reading out loud, asking questions, meeting new people, or performing. That is identified as Social Anxiety. Some students may have panic attacks which are an abrupt surge of intense fear/discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. This is a Panic Disorder and demonstrates any of the following physical symptoms:
  • Palpitations, high heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, unsteady or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or Depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

It is normal for babies and very young children to have some Separation Anxiety when they are apart from their caregiver or parent. However, if this is recurrent and causes excessive distress, students may have difficulty coming to school. These students may worry excessively about losing major attachment figures, persistent worry about being alone, and reluctance or refusal to leave the home.

A phobia is an intense fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation. A student with a phobia will go to great lengths to avoid their fear. And last but not least Selective Mutism. Some students may be too fearful of talking at all in certain situations. These students can talk and can talk very well; however, may be too fearful of speaking in situations outside their home or with people they are not comfortable with.

Getting Them Help

If you think your student or child is suffering from any of these disorders, please contact each other so together you can come up with a plan to make the child safe, successful, and happy. Contact your pediatrician or family doctor if you want to see if a behavioral health provider is necessary.

Help your child now so they can feel good about going to school and so they don’t become an adult with the same struggles they had in school, in life, and at home and work.


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