The 276 Wellness Committee organized a film screening of the film, Angst, in late November. The film was followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Michelle Zaccario, Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist and PS/IS 276 Parent, Dr. Anne Marie Albano, of the Columbia University Clinic For Anxiety; Dr. Jerry Bubrick, Senior Director of Anxiety Disorders Center, Child Mind Institute. I was surprised to hear that 20% to 25% of young people will experience anxiety disorders before they are out of school and that anxiety can begin to manifest as early as 4 years old.
Separation anxiety in the morning at drop off, misbehavior in the classroom, frequent trips to the nurse’s office for stomach and head aches, and extreme shyness are just some of the ways that anxiety can manifest at school. When we notice these behaviors in children, the 276 staff works collaboratively with parents to implement supports so that the children learn to manage their fears.
These supports may be simple such as arranging an alternative plan for arriving at school in the morning, offering time with a counselor or teacher to talk through anxious thoughts, and practicing mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
We also have built in supports to help students manage anxiety. Students in grades 5-8 have weekly advisory meetings, we use google classroom to help children organize and keep on top of assignments, and we have a grading policy that values persistence and participation instead of just grades. Teachers in grades K-4 use the Second Step program to help children understand their feelings and to practice self-expression and self-advocacy. Our teachers are also trained in how to use mindfulness techniques to help students focus and de-stress.
It is important that parents and school work together to help children develop strong social emotional skills and resilience. If you ever have any concerns about your child, please let your teacher or a school counselor know.
Here are some resources to help you understand anxiety and how to help your child manage these emotions.
The Child Mind Institute has a number of articles on helping children with anxiety. One that caught my eye was how we adults sometimes pass anxiety on to children and how we can ameliorate the impact on the children.
Usable Knowledge, an electronic newsletter I receive from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has a series of articles on helping young people (and their grown ups) manage anxiety.
The Angst film makers also have a number of resources available on their website.