True Story:Anxiety and Children

Just like anyone, children feel worried and anxious; and with the added concern of school, kids can worry about normal things, like going out in public, leaving their parents and talking to their peers. But it really becomes a problem when it affects a child’s day-to-day life: severe anxiety can harm young people’s mental and emotional health, denting their self-esteem and self-confidence. And yet, sometimes, all they really need is a good friend.

A teacher’s point of view

When trying to help a pupil with anxiety, a teacher has to consider how they feel; how class time will make them feel. When I spoke to a teacher about helping children affected by anxiety, she told me, ‘As a teacher, you have to think about what makes the student tick, think about if you say something will it make them upset.’

On the matter of mistakes and achievements, she said, ‘Sometimes just taking them aside at the end of a lesson and giving them praise and dropping the negatives will give them a little boost. You really have to make sure that they know they’re doing well.’ Overall, a teacher’s job is to understand, appreciate and give the child confidence by celebrating their achievements.

A parent’s point of view

A normal parent with a child in secondary school worries about small things like their child getting to and from school and remembering clubs and so on. A parent with an anxious child in secondary school has a lot more to worry about: if the child will get upset or paranoid for no reason; if they will get through the day alright; if they will get bullied because they’re different; pretty much everything and more. I asked my friend’s Mother what it is like to have a child with anxiety. She told me:

Being a mam of a child with anxiety is extremely challenging and exhausting. She finds being in a crowded room too hard and even public transport. She hates being away from home; it makes me upset when she feels she has no body as no one understands what she’s going through. She can lash out but not know why. She needs days’ notice if things are going to happen or change. She may be hard work but she is worth all of it!

A students point of view

I asked my best friend from school to help me with this part. She suffers from separation anxiety, social anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder, so I asked her to tell me what it is like when she gets upset or angry. She said, ‘ok, when I get angry it feels like I’m in a dark room, just sitting there, and I have no idea what’s going on; it feels like something has taken over me and once I calm down, I have no idea what happened.’

I also asked her what it is like in school at the special needs centre. She told me, ‘well they do it [the lesson] at my speed so that I don’t get stressed. I need to be careful because when I’m in class my heart rate is getting faster by the minute.’

Since we became friends, she has become far more confident from how she was; she won an award for courage last year and I was so proud that I cried.

So, like I said, what someone with anxiety needs is for people to understand them: basically a good friend.