Anxiety is the most common mental disorder affecting children’s psychological, emotional, and behavioural well-being. Most children experience physical symptoms of anxiety; these include refusal to attend classes, experience back pain, sweating, restlessness, stomach aches as well as headache. Other symptoms may include fatigue, followed by feeling uncomfortable at the sight of any school building.
The schools are resuming after a few months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of children developed anxiety to learn, which may make them feel uncomfortable within the school or any other learning environment, this anxiety results to the limitation on the ability to keep information in their memory for definite periods of time.
Set realistic goals
There are different expectations from children with academic anxiety compared to those who don’t suffer from it. Children who don’t have academic anxiety are willing to try every possible attempt to learn new things at home or school, while children with academic anxiety run or avoid them all.
It’s helpful to attend to simple assignments that don’t include overwhelming triggers – such as brainstorming or quantitative analysis. Setting clear expectations and helping children to produce suitable standards can help overcome and manage anxious feelings.
Show the act of empathy
Parenting an anxious child is often all-overwhelming. Anxieties are often demoralising to children and showing empathy can help reduce academic anxiety. When children are completely overwhelmed by thoughts of anxiousness, they resist the urge to carry out everyday events like going to school or attending social gatherings.
When most of these occurrences happen, it’s important to show empathy to children, allowing them to know it’s normal for everybody. This helps them understand that they aren’t alone and you will guide them through with what they are experiencing.
The painful thing about the feeling of anxiety is that the thought is a continuous cycle and it is overwhelming because it causes feelings of helplessness and restlessness. When anxiety strikes – as they are about to learn anything either at home or school – children get caught during a cycle of ‘I can’t’ and ‘what if’, which sets them off guard.
Anxious children tend to experience some form of cognitive distortion, or thinking and overgeneralising but reframing those thoughts are best before learning can take place. Settings aside from usual time to work on constructive reframing in children can give them the power to control over-worried thoughts. Also, assisting children to always use positive or affirmative statements like ‘If my mate in class can do this, I am better at doing this too.’
One of the greatest fears of children is looking at the bulk of school work to be completed even if they can’t. Children enjoy learning and rewarding their effort is essential. Their fear of failure can also be reduced by collaborating with others who have the same academic strengths and creating a smaller circle of friends where they can share a common interest. Having friends who can assist and make them feel successful in managing school tasks can ease the feeling of learning anxiety.
Keep children in charge
Most of the times, those with learning anxiety often break up on the worst-case scenario of working with their teachers or parents. The patterns of thinking that they are only forced against their will can be shifted to a more personalised method through helping them to take advantage and confront their scary thoughts with evidence and facts from past experience.
If children get anxious about making mistakes in little tasks, ask for help and try again after a failed attempt is a self-coping technique, children will learn the ways on how to conquer their emotions.
Maximise the use of technology
Use of technology is a great advantage to help children take charge of their learning pace and limit the time on playing games or watching movies. The use of technology helps children to accomplish school task, and establish good communication with their friends, teachers, and family, this will ease their feeling of anxiety when they know that there is someone sincere that they can talk to.
Parents need guidance too on how they should manage parental strategies when their children are encountering learning anxieties. The family learning environment should have open communication to discuss learning anxiety and the principal key is to prioritise children’s emotional well-being.
Image credit: Freepik
Onah Caleb is a research assistant at Benue State University (Nigeria). He runs the blog KaylebsThought.