This material is also available in a PDF format:
Children with anxiety difficulties are easily overlooked at school as they are usually quiet and obedient. Often they get anxious about doing the wrong thing, about their schoolwork not being perfect, and about social relationships. Worries about issues that arise outside of school may also interfere with their ability to concentrate in class or relate to others.
How teaching staff can help
Teach coping skills
Learning about feelings and how they can be managed can really help. Regular social and emotional learning that emphasises coping skills will be helpful in addition to regular, universal social and emotional learning instruction. Children with severe anxiety will benefit most from a social and emotional skills program targeted for children with internalising difficulties.
The tendency to avoid difficult situations or tasks stops the student learning how to manage in spite of feeling anxious. Where necessary, the task or situation can be modified to provide more manageable steps. However, do not force a child to take on something that is too overwhelming.
Encourage ‘having a go’
Encouraging students to participate and ‘have a go’ helps them get over doubts about their ability to manage. Giving positive feedback for trying can make a big difference.
Set realistic expectations
Feeling pressure to be perfect is common for children with anxiety disorders. Setting realistic expectations for academic work is important to help them learn to manage their anxiety and stress less.
Modify and monitor stressful activities
Test situations or class presentations may be particularly stressful for children with anxiety difficulties. Teachers may be able to modify assessment tasks to relieve some of the pressure, for example, by providing breaks during or extra time for tests, or having children present to small groups rather than the whole class. Monitor the child’s progress and gradually provide more challenging requirements as confidence increases.
Provide opportunities for children with anxiety to take on special responsibilities that help them support their view of themselves as capable. Developing a sense of independence reduces their need for reassurance and builds confidence.
Access help when needed
Anxiety can be caused by a range of factors. When children’s anxiety symptoms are severe or persistent it is important to consult with your school’s student wellbeing staff member for further advice and support.