Anxiety at school: Helping your child survive and thrive

Anxiety at school: Helping your child survive and thrive

Anxiety at school is not a new phenomenon; however, educators and parents alike recognise that there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of anxiety among children in the past year.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and measures to ensure the safety of children who are back at school or in the process of returning. Anxiety is not to be dismissed or taken lightly. Still, the good news is that parents and teachers can take steps to ensure they first recognise red flags in children and then respond appropriately.

Should there be concerns that a child is taking emotional strain, an education expert says. “Teachers and parents can recognise the onset of anxiety when a sudden behaviour change becomes apparent and continues for at least three weeks or longer,” says Dr Jacques Mostert.

He holds a PhD in Psychology of Education and is Brand Academic Manager at ADvTECH, a local private education provider. Dr Mostert is globally renowned in his field and has conducted experiential research in Denmark, the UK, South Africa and the Netherlands.

He says some of the signs to look out for include inattention and restlessness; attendance problems and clingy kids; disruptive behaviour that is not typical of the young person; trouble answering questions in class.

An increase in problems generally, which could include a marked downturn in academic performance in specific subjects where usually there wasn’t a problem and if non-neurotypical difficulties are ruled out, such as ADHD or dyslexia.

Finally, if a child starts avoiding socialising or group work, attention must be paid. “Anxiety is your body’s normal reaction to perceived danger or important events,” says Dr Mostert.

“It is like your body’s internal alarm system that is set to alert you of dangers that may be life-threatening, and it helps your body to prepare to deal with danger. However, your internal alarm is not very good at recognising whether the danger you may face is indeed life-threatening or not.”

“For example, your body reacts by becoming nervous about being late to school and seeing a big spider in the bathroom in the same way. Neither is likely to cause real damage, yet your body remains alert and ready to run away in either case.”

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