Helping Students Through Anxiety

Guest Writer: Piper McIntosh

How to Recognize Anxiety

Children get anxious from time to time – it’s only normal. They may become nervous before presenting in front of the class, for example, be it right before the presentation or even beginning the night before. Sometimes they can become anxious even for activities like lunch and recess. Luckily, there are specific signs that tend to pop up even at a young age that signal an anxiety disorder might be developing. As a professional, it is important to be able to recognize when a student has anxiety so that you may treat them the proper way and potentially help them to grow as a person. 

Common Signs of Anxiety in Children

When a child has anxiety, they may express this in a few different ways. They may avoid others and end up isolating themselves, for example, and become overwhelmed in large groups of people. It may be hard for them to focus. The child may also express their anxiety in ways such as frequent crying, tantrums, and general restlessness. It is important to recognize the differences between shyness and social anxiety, as an aside, because not every child without plenty of friends is anxious or unhappy. Children who are shy simply keep to themselves. Those with social anxiety become anxious when they must talk to people.

Signs of anxiety may also depend on age. For instance, most one-year-old babies will cry often, however, it is unusual for a twelve-year-old to show the same behaviors. Pay close attention to how children interact with each other. Although you may not “save” every child, you may try your best to recognize when something is out of the ordinary with someone in your class.

Helping Children in the Classroom

There are certain ways that you may help children inside the classroom. One important way is by setting a good example. Always act calm and confident and treat everyone with respect. By acting as a role model, you may help children to learn how to stay composed. You may also treat anxiety with natural methods. Teach children healthy coping mechanisms for when they feel calm. Although being active is very important, which recess can help with, it is also important to teach children from a young age that time to calm down is very important. Perhaps you may consider having breathing time every day before lesson time. This will get children in the right mindset before it is time to learn. You may also encourage activities that promote socializing. 

It is important that children become comfortable talking to people and making friends when they are young so that they may be able to grow to trust and care for others. It may also help to incorporate calming scents in the classroom. Although candles are nice, they typically aren’t allowed because of the fire hazard that they pose. Aromatherapy diffusers are an easy solution to this, and you may add calming essential oils such as eucalyptus and lavender to calm the students down. This will also help them to focus more easily and get more work done. 

Helping Children Grow Outside School

You can’t help every child every second of the day. It would be wonderful, but you also must go home. It is important for children to learn how to cope by themselves. They won’t always have someone around to watch them, after all, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help. You may also help them access helpful resources. It may be wise to talk to the parents of the children and point out that their child may need some help before you go this route. You may point them to a school counselor or outside therapist. Although it is important to allow children to recognize that while you will always be there for them to talk to, they must also be able to become aware of their own thoughts and feelings and learn when to ask for help. Ideally, they would be able to go to their parents to talk to. 

Unfortunately, that is not always possible in every family. It may help to lead them to a counselor to talk to, yet you must also not single them out, as that may lead to further difficulty in socializing with others. Overall, it is important to recognize when a child needs help and to know the proper way to help them the best that you can. 


I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort starts in July, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to join!

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