Millions of children around the world suffer from anxiety disorders and they are often dismissed by parents and teachers as being shy or just a “phase.” Parents and teachers likewise consider the possibility of an anxiety disorder when it is too late and they have gone past the age of being treated like kids. It is important that we as parents and teachers manage to differentiate shyness from anxiety.
“Anxiety is the sense of discomfort, restlessness, or uncertainty that is internally generated,” says David Spiegel, MD, director of Stanford Medicine’s Center on Stress and Health. “It’s being a worrier without having the stressors outside.” When kids with an anxiety disorder are left alone or dissed by their friends, they start feeling empty and alone. Children with this disorder need extra attention. A child who is not making friends at all needs some sort of care because it is not normal human behavior. You can identify children with anxiety quite easily. They will seem distant from other students and sit alone during lunch breaks. These kids might feel uncomfortable around others and avoid participating in the class at all. They get extremely nervous and shaky during class presentations as well.
It is important that we keep an open eye and look for such symptoms. If you are a student then you can help other students out as well. You can take help from an existing club or introduce a new club that aims to help kids with an anxiety disorder. You can do the following to help out students that suffer from anxiety.
- Introduce Calming Methods
“Anxiety is a reaction to a situation we perceive as stressful or dangerous,” Monique Reynolds, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist. When anxiety kicks in, our body starts to react in different ways such as increased heartbeat, dizziness, muscle tension, and heavy breathing. The balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen gets disrupted resulting in anxiety. During your club meetings, you must teach all members different methods to calm themselves down in a situation of an attack. These include inhaling and exhaling slowly as well as holding your breath for 2 seconds and then exhaling for 6 seconds.
- Ignore The Negativity
Children who have an anxiety disorder think negative thoughts. They start believing that their opinions don’t matter and they won’t be appreciated by others. They are also scared of what people might say, they think everyone will say negative things about them. It is important that members and leaders encourage each other to overcome failure and negative thoughts. Conquering negative thoughts isn’t easy and it takes some time to overcome. You should teach your club members how to recognize the patterns set by negative thoughts and identify them as unrealistic. Push them to replace the negativity with positivity and then make it a habit. Thomas A. Richards, a psychologist, wrote, “Thoughts grow with attention. If you focus on negative thoughts, they will grow and grow and become even larger. If you focus on your progress and the new thoughts you are learning, they will grow stronger and take “automatic” control.”
- Teach Them To Resolve The Issue
Kids who are familiar with their anxiety status often avoid involving themselves in situations that cause stress for them. For instance, when kids with anxiety are out for dinner with family, they avoid ordering for themselves and most parents are fine with it. However, avoiding the situation altogether does not solve the problem. You as a leader of the group can encourage them to interact socially and make decisions for themselves. Talk to them about the issue and ask them to solve the problem as if they are solving a maths equation. Look for possible ways to achieve the end result without giving up. No matter what happens at the end, completing the task is important. This teaches them to solve problems on their own instead of relying on others.
- Facilitate Communication
Children with anxiety hesitate when making conversation. The constant fear of being wrong and disliked is what stops them. It is a little difficult to make them talk, however specific activities can help them out. You can make pairs and ask them to talk to each other for a few minutes. You can rotate the pairing method and increase the time as they start to get comfortable with each other. It is important that you come up with such activities because this encourages them to communicate with each other and be more open about their feelings. It takes time for them to overcome the fear but they do overcome it eventually. Every once in a while you can bring a role model into your support group as an inspiration and ask them to give a motivational speech so the children can relate to it.
Make sure that you recognize the symptoms and try to help these students out. Remember they are fragile so choose your words wisely with them. Don’t push them too hard to speak publically, they will when they are ready.