3 ways to help your child excel in school this year

Based on my more than 30 years as a child, adolescent and family psychologist, I have seen anxiety have a devastating impact on how children and adolescents deal with the challenges they face in life. school. Chronic anxiety can interfere with the ability to concentrate and learn, causing problems in school that can have a lifelong negative impact.

This rise in anxiety is a real problem for our young people. In addition, it can lead to serious mental health problems: depression, substance abuse and even suicide. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three teens between the ages of 13 and 18 will suffer from an anxiety disorder. These numbers have steadily increased, with anxiety disorders in children and adolescents increasing by 20% in recent years.

Teach your child to manage their anxiety

Anxiety in children can arise when faced with academic demands, dealing with social pressures, relationships with family members, or self-esteem issues. However, when children are too emotionally distressed to focus, listen and interact meaningfully, this level of anxiety can have serious repercussions on their lives now and in adolescence and adulthood.

Ironically, the worst part of anxiety is having anxiety about the anxiety itself. The metaphor of a snowball rolling down a hill is the one I use to illustrate the rapid growth of uncontrolled anxiety. As I explain in my book, The Anxiety, Depression and Anger Toolkit for Teenscombining mindfulness, healthy self-talk and courage-building activities, strongly helps children and teens manage their anxiety.

Children can learn to cope with anxiety by learning two essential skills: calming down and problem solving. In my opinion, these are the two most crucial skills for all of us to function and thrive in our world.

Below are three techniques incorporating both calming and problem-solving skills that I use with children and their parents to help children manage their anxiety:

1. Anxiety’s Toughest Adversaries: Preparation and Routines

Children prone to anxiety generally find transitions difficult: for example, going from home to school. While most children in this COVID era have now physically returned to school, the value of transition readiness also applies to online learning.

Some children benefit, within reasonable limits, from additional warm-up time. It’s really good to get to places early so you have a chance to feel prepared ahead of time. For those kids, who are physically attending school and struggling with avoidance anxiety, I recommend driving them to school and pretending to go there at least once on the weekend to keep the awareness of strong routine.

Anxious children resent a disorganized and spontaneous family lifestyle. Regular routines give both parent and child a sense of control. Routines and schedules can help children regulate their emotions because they will know what to expect each day (Barlow, 2002, Hemmeter, et. al. 2006, and Head Start, 2022)

2. Teach mindfulness and self-compassion.

Mindfulness exercises help children develop focus, self-awareness and the ability to relax. The more children can learn to focus on comforting images and feelings, the less they will focus on their anxiety. I love helping children learn mindfulness in a fun way. One way is to have them imagine squeezing juice from a lemon. Another calming visualization is to focus on a flickering candle. Abdominal breathing also helps reboot that reactive brain.

From a self-compassion perspective, it helps to teach children to recognize mistakes and talk kindly to themselves about mistakes. If they get stuck and say, “I don’t know,” ask them to share what they would say to a friend. Often, compassion is more easily expressed with friends than with ourselves. Learning self-compassion is an essential skill for reducing anxiety in children. Research shows that self-compassion reduces anxiety and actually increases the odds of success.

3. Encourage him to say “Nevertheless”.

The word “nevertheless” helps fight discouragement and turns potentially disastrous days into productive ones. It boosts courage and is good for your child’s self-esteem. Here’s how to coach your child with:

“Yeah, it didn’t go well when I went to do my math homework. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep working on it and try even harder. And, if that doesn’t help, I can ask my teacher some extra help and let them know I’m really trying hard.”

Here are two more examples of the power of using Nevertheless:

  • “I’m going to fail this test, there’s no point in studying. However, I have a better chance of passing if I try.”
  • “I made a mistake last week in baseball; nevertheless, I will work on my alignment in practice.”

I hope these strategies above will be helpful in helping your child reduce their anxiety. For persistent problems, please consult a qualified mental health professional.

To find a therapist, please visit Psychology Today’s Directory of Therapies.

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