Helping Your Child Deal with Academic Anxiety

Stress is natural, and in some instances, even healthy in small doses. But for children and teens dealing with academic anxiety, this stress can have a real impact on their education and even their mental health. While a certain level of pressure is healthy and plays a key role in motivating students, some kids tend to have a more severe reaction than others. Recognizing academic anxiety in your children and teens can be crucial to relieving their stress and deterring its negative impacts in the long run.

What is Academic Anxiety?

Academic anxiety is described as a feeling of distress, fear or extreme stress as a result of school pressures. This anxiety isn’t your typical stress before a final exam, but rather a more disruptive pattern of high stress in your child or teen.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can suffer from symptoms of academic anxiety, but those most at risk for developing academic anxiety are those with ADD/ADHD, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, learning disabilities or those with perfectionist attributes. Genetics and family history can also play a role in academic anxiety, so it’s important to take everything into consideration. It’s not to say that these students will actually develop academic anxiety, but studies have shown that they are more likely to develop some of the symptoms.

Learn more about anxiety.

How Can I Recognize Academic Anxiety in My Child?

Is it really anxiety, or just a period of increased stress? It’s important to keep in mind that schoolwork is typically geared to push students to excel and they will eventually face times where they may feel overwhelmed or stressed. This is normal. But, if your child seems to be facing longer periods of stress and anxiety, it’s time to take note. Long and frequent periods of high stress in your child could mean that he or she may have higher levels of anxiety and could be suffering from academic anxiety. Academic anxiety can show up through various different symptoms, some mental and some can even cause a physical reaction in your child. If you think your student could be suffering, watch out for these signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension
  • Forgetting information
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tendency to avoid difficult tasks
  • Low performance in school
  • Easily distracted

The Bigger Picture and Long-Term Effects

Left untreated, children and teens suffering from academic anxiety can actually face worsening effects. Students suffering from academic anxiety will have a tendency to look for ways to alleviate that stress. This can cause some students to avoid doing their schoolwork. This can result in a “why try?” attitude and can not only cause your student’s grades drop, it can kick-start a downhill cycle. As your student starts missing more and more assignments, it’s possible that they’ll become even more stressed as they see their grades dwindle, only magnifying their already prevalent fear of failure. While this downhill cycle is the most prevalent and most widely recognized effect of academic anxiety, there are still some long-term effects hidden under the surface. Any anxiety disorder, whether it be social, academic or generalized can lead to these problems:

  • Impaired ability to perform tasks and trouble concentrating
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Decreased energy
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Headaches

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Academic Anxiety?

Your first step to helping your student deal with academic anxiety is to speak with your doctor, who can determine if treatment or therapy is necessary. Often, your doctor will offer multiple options for your child. To get the most out of your doctor’s visit, here are some things you can do to prepare for your consultation. When working to relieve your child’s symptoms, remember that everyone is different and your child may respond differently to various treatment options. If you don’t notice a difference right away, or notice that your child isn’t getting desired results, this doesn’t mean that treatment isn’t working, but that another option may be better suited for him or her. It’s important that you keep your doctor informed on your student’s progress so that you can work together to find the best treatment for your child’s specific case. There are also things that you can do at home to if your child or teen is suffering from academic anxiety. Try some of these ideas to help your student cope:

  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Minimize caffeine intake
  • Create positive self-talk statements
  • Help your student develop strong study skills
  • Develop an open line of communication with your child.
  • Help your child plan and prioritize tasks like homework

Academic anxiety in children and teens can be a serious issue not to be taken lightly. Without intervention, this type of anxiety can continue indefinitely and even into adulthood. But you can help your child gain the skills needed to cope with anxiety through your doctor and exercises at home.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

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