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Understanding that Anxiety Can Be the Cause of Many Behavior Problems
One day my daughter was late for school, she was six years old and very embarrassed. I told her that all she needed to do was walk quietly into the classroom, apologize to the teacher and find her seat. At that idea she panicked, “please can’t we just go home?” she said.
“You can do this, ” I said, “off you go.” I felt awful for her, but I knew she would be okay.
That afternoon on picking her up the teacher came to talk to me, she told me that my daughter had entered the room and rather than simply apologize for being late had disrupted the whole classroom by talking loudly to her friends, ran to her desk instead of walked, whispered to other children and had not apologized to her at all.
Was this my daughter? The child that was so timid and anxious, the one who wanted to run away instead of face the other children? It appeared that in order for her to endure what she must, she had to change her persona and become a challenging and naughty child, she had altered herself completely. I explained the situation to the teacher, and told her how surprised I was, luckily she was good at her job and helped my daughter and I through some sticky times. It is extremely important to have a good rapport with the school, they can help you to separate the good times and the not so good times that your child has, and when you have this information you are on the ladder of understanding.
Anxiety at School.
When anxiety shows itself in this way, it is very difficult. Yes you want your child to have consequences for his/her behavior, however you want to understand the causes behind it. If you are a parent who is in frequent communication with the school over your childs behavior, ask yourself, and then the school this question….is my child like this in every class? In every subject? Many times a child will behave badly, mess around and get into trouble in a subject he/she doesn’t grasp very well. Anxious children of all ages often find it hard to speak to their teachers about problems, they will either sit in a corner and hope not to be noticed, thus being seen as not socializing and possibly having learning challenges, or become a class clown. The latter seeks attention by messing about and making other kids laugh, often at inappropriate times in the classroom; walking around chatting instead of doing work, disturbing others, and can often be confrontational with the teacher when asked to stop. Sometimes it is hard to stay calm if you are always being contacted by the school, but remember, the better the relationship with the teachers, the more they will try to help. It stands to reason really, if you are trying to help them they will try to help you.
If you have a situation where your child really isn’t coping at school, if homework is becoming a terrible battle, if the behavior is not improving and you know your child is anxious, seek help from a professional. A therapist can help you even if your child isn’t keen on the idea. It may even be prevalent to set up a 504 plan at the school, which is a set of accommodations that your child can have to enable them to do better. For example, if stressing out over homework is an issue they may need an extra day to hand it in, or if disrupting the class is the big one, finding out why and giving help where needed.
Just like at school your children may act up at home, making life hard on the family. They may yell, refuse to do what you ask, have very emotional reactions to consequences that you give, mess around all the time, refuse homework, be very loud at inappropriate times and generally be extremely challenging, and often this is because of some inner anxiety that if not recognized could get worse.
Talking to your child.
This is paramount. If we don’t talk to our children we will never find out anything. Even if he/she refuses to talk, if they know you are there and available you will have given them a safe haven, this in turn will give them the confidence to approach you.
Go for trips in the car just the two of you, this can work out really well, you don’t have to be going far, the two of you can chat and you can bring up anything that you think is important. Make time for the two of you to be alone, meet them after school and go get an ice cream or a smoothie; he may tell you that he finds certain subjects very difficult, that he gets embarrassed and upset, his way of dealing with it is to get into trouble in class so nobody knows the truth. Or there may be other issues that come up that you wouldn’t otherwise have any idea about, It doesn’t matter how old your children are, they need you.
It is very important that we give consequences to our children. It is hard to discipline when we know that the disruptive behavior is due to anxiety, but if we give in and feel sorry for them, or give too mild a consequence we hinder their learning of right and wrong. As parents we will learn to understand the reasons behind the negative behavior, and then consequences are rarely dished out in anger, but as a learning tool for life.
On the other hand, if you notice that your child is behaving well, at home or at school let them know how pleased you are, and maybe work out a suitable reward depending on the age of your child.
Feeling Secure and Loved.
Every child needs to feel loved. If your child shows a lot of anxiety, feeling loved and secure in their family is imperative. Let her know how terrific you think she is. With the help you give her and have possibly acquired for her, she will start to believe in herself, which will give her a much better self image and a more positive approach to problems.