Today I’m working to assist children and teens with school-based anxiety. This problem seems to be far more prevalent than most us might think. For older kids, especially, there is lots of effort spent trying to look “okay” and “together,” when inside some are truly falling apart. I enjoy helping to support students with school anxiety – both social and academic – but I’m left wondering if the problem could be lessened by having a greater curricular focus on social and emotional psychology. Students would love these classes, and they should begin in middle school.
Having a forum to talk about emotions in school normalizes the range of what people might feel, and because it is a form of instruction, it also accesses meta-cognitive awareness about the problem. Basically, a person begins to think more broadly about their own thought processes. This is the essence of cognitive-behavioral therapy – an extremely useful approach for situational anxiety. The take-home message for students is that they can do something to alter unwanted thought patterns, and their emotional consequences. Simply making this idea explicit instills hope, and begins the process of better self-care.