Being a teenager can be difficult in today’s world. Adding in the challenges of school makes it even harder. Many teens experience anxiety during this time as they face challenges with friends, romantic relationships, school assignments and extracurricular activities.
These feelings of anxiety are entirely normal and understandable. However, what if your child always seems to have fearful feelings about school no matter how much reassurance you give or time passes? What if sure signs begin presenting themselves, like declining grades or trouble making friends? If these signs are persistent and noticeable, it may indicate that your child is battling an anxiety disorder.
What is an anxiety disorder?
The Mayo Clinic says, “People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).” These emotions, especially when experienced frequently, can quickly interfere with the ability to function normally.
Other symptoms that teens suffering from anxiety experience often include:
Changes in appetite
Trouble with concentration
Poor grades or behavior at school
Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
Low amounts of energy
When a teen struggles with these symptoms in addition to everyday life, the daily challenges one encounters can feel insurmountable. Even something as routine as school can suffer when one’s mental health is under attack.
Anxiety in school
As a parent, you don’t spend much, if any, time at your child’s school. You might not even drop them off in the mornings if they commute by bus. So the ongoings of your teen’s day may be all but a mystery.
The point is, that you may not be fully aware of the ongoings at your teen’s school that could be causing them anxiety. Knowing some of the more triggering situations your child may be encountering will not only help you help them but will allow you to understand the root of the problem better.
Typical school stressors that may cause anxiety include:
Stressors upperclassmen face preparing to transition to college
Sports team-related pressure or stress from other extracurriculars like dance and cheer
Social situations, including complications with friends or romantic relationships
Bullying or cyberbullying
Especially when a teen faces more than one of these situations, it’s no surprise that anxiety and overwhelming emotions invade.
Signs of school anxiety
Every person’s experience with anxiety is different, so how their symptoms manifest is also likely to differ. However, it’s common for many teens struggling with anxiety to display similar signs, even if the thing causing stress varies. Some common symptoms that school is causing your teen anxiety include:
Grades begin declining for no apparent reason
Work pace is significantly slower than average, or it takes an increasingly extended amount of time for them to finish homework
Your child refuses to finish assignments or to even go to school
They are frequently tardy or absent
They no longer want to attend events or participate in activities they used to enjoy
Frequent visits to the school nurse are reported
Complaints about nausea, stomach aches, headaches, or other physical pains/discomfort become more common
If you begin noticing these signs, it may indicate that your child is struggling with anxiety in school. To give your child the best chance at success, getting them the right help early on can make a significant difference in their life, both now and later on.
Resources for helping teens with anxiety
If your teen indicates verbally or nonverbally that they are battling anxiety, it might be time to intervene. There are several things you can do to help your teen, including:
Offering to talk with them – Create a safe space where your child feels comfortable to share their thoughts and concerns, and allow them to talk – without interruption – about what is causing them grief in their life
Encouraging self-care – If you notice your teen working themselves into burnout, encourage some self-care. This could include a movie night, an evening out to dinner, tickets to a ballgame or a Sunday afternoon hike. Breaks are just as crucial for good grades as studying, so make sure your teen knows that they can and should prioritize rest
Be aware of your own pressure – Of course, you want the best for your children, but make sure that the anxiety they’re feeling isn’t coming directly from you; by encouraging good study habits, healthy sleeping routines and proper nutrition, you can set them on a healthy lifestyle path that will benefit them for years to come
Advise them to see a school counselor – If you think what your child is handling is more than you’re capable of helping them with, don’t be afraid of suggesting a professional counselor. They’ll be able to help identify your child’s stressors and recommend beneficial coping mechanisms to prevent any worsening of their mental health
Knowing your teen has anxiety about school can be challenging, but offering them help during this time can mean the world.
Looking for care?
To contact a mental healthcare facility to help your teen further, yourself or any member of your family, reach out to High Focus Centers online or at 800-877-3628.