Anxiety is a common emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. However, for some people, anxiety can become so severe that it interferes with their daily lives. This is especially true for middle school students, who are facing a number of new challenges, both academically and socially.
As a parent or a teacher, you play an important role in helping your middle school kids cope with anxiety. Here are a few strategies:
– Affirm: remind them that anxiety is a biological reaction to a stressful situation. Tell them that their feelings are valid, but sometimes, feelings aren’t facts. Help them to understand this with the next two steps.
– Empower: Help students to be emotion detectives. Teach them to stop and notice.
Ask: What are you feeling? Notice what that feeling feels like in your body.
Next help them to identify the case with prompts like:
- Does this situation usually make you feel this way?
- Where were you the last time you felt this way?
- What were you doing?
- What did you notice about how you were feeling?
Help them to challenge the emotion: What are the facts of the thing that is causing me to feel anxious?
Teach them to ask themselves: My feeling is valid, but, does the size of my feeling match the facts of the situation?
Lastly, teach them to think of an alternative outcome than the one they are defaulting to that is causing the anxiety. They can think: I automatically think that ______________ is going to happen if__________________, but another equally possible positive or neutral outcome is__________________________.
– Check-in: Check-in with them later in the day to see how they are feeling and to ask them how you can continue to support them. Remind them that they matter and that you believe in them.
Teaching kids to identify and manage their anxiety on their own empowers them to regulate their own emotions and think more flexibly and abstractly. It also builds a trusting relationship between parents and kids, and shows them that they are valued and individualized.
In Homework in a Cafe we are also ready to support you and your child to overcome any struggle you or your child might be facing! Contact us now.