As a school administrator, I often meet with parents who are worried about their child who struggles to get out of bed, disconnects from peers, avoids tasks, suffers from headaches and more. Many wonder if their child is suffering from anxiety, and I always guide families to check in with their child’s pediatrician first. If their child is diagnosed with anxiety, there is much we do to support them.
For starters, assure them they are not alone and you are there for them. Acknowledge that anxiety is like an alarm system going off in their child’s body. Their brain is detecting some form of danger and triggering the body to feel restless, struggle to breath, create looping thoughts, racing hearts, or that terrible warm feeling in the pit of their tummies.
Be present with your child and help them recognize how their body is responding to an alarm, even when that alarm isn’t life-threatening. Reassure them it does not mean they are broken. Listen to what your child is saying: what are their thoughts, what is troubling them. Writing them down can help you see trends in what they are telling themselves. Are they criticizing themselves, putting down others and focusing on failures? Are the thoughts real and valid, or are they not telling themselves the truth?
Support kids in healthy ways of breathing, eating, exercising and sleeping, as these are all incredibly important to their wellbeing. Short mindfulness exercises can be useful, in combination with your health care provider’s plan. I also encourage families to find a trusted person or group their child can be open and vulnerable with. Counselors, mentors and youth leaders can be wonderful supporters.
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Santiam Christian Elementary Principal
santiamchristian.org 541-745-5524 x 243