Anxiety is a pervasive issue for many children. Since the pandemic, anxiety rates have nearly doubled  leaving students with impaired ability to learn, participate, and interact with others in the educational environment. While anxiety is a normal part of development, for example, feeling upset at school drop-off or having anxiety before a test, it should not be long-lasting or widespread. Anxiety can impact every age group, and the signs and symptoms may appear differently based on the child’s stage of development. All children can experience generalized anxiety or phobias, but social anxiety and panic are most often seen in teenagers. Younger children are more likely to experience separation anxiety or selective mutism. The signs, especially if less severe, may be harder for parents and educators to identify.
Some signs that a student may be experiencing anxiety in the classroom include:
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Fear of class participation or interaction with peers
- Physical symptoms, such as sweating, trembling, or nausea
- Excessive worry about “bad” things happening related to family, school, etc.
- Difficulty sleeping at night, leading to trouble staying awake during class
In addition to professional support, there are a number of strategies that teachers and educators can use to help students experiencing anxiety in the classroom. These include:
- Creating a supportive and positive classroom environment that encourages open communication and respect for all students
- Providing clear and consistent expectations for behavior and performance
- Offering accommodations or modifications to assignments or testing for students with documented anxiety disorders
- Encouraging self-care practices, such as exercise, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to help students manage their anxiety symptoms
- Providing opportunities for students to practice relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery, during class or study periods
It’s also important that teachers be aware of the signs of anxiety in the classroom and seek support from school counselors, administrators, or other professionals when necessary. In some cases, visual processing problems, like Irlen Syndrome, can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Sensitivity to light, reading difficulties, and other symptoms of the condition create a stressed and overworked brain. This can then lead to anxious feelings. By working together, parents, educators, and support staff can identify the children negatively impacted by anxiety and provide the tools and environment they need to thrive.
 Racine N, McArthur BA, Cooke JE, Eirich R, Zhu J, Madigan S. Global prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19: a meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 9, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2482