The Homeschooling Why and How Blog
by Helen Pollard
Anxiety is a condition affecting millions of people across the globe. Far from being an exclusively adult problem, it also affects one in eight children, which can lead them to perform worse in their schoolwork, or stop them from engaging in meaningful social experiences. Anxiety is also considered a risk for substance abuse, which is why it is vital to nip the problem in the bud.
Anxiety involves far more than having a panic attack – some sufferers live in a state of constant worry; others can have frequent episodes during which they feel dizzy, fear they are going crazy, or feel like they are about to faint. Anxiety can sometimes be so debilitating that children do not feel like leaving the home; above all, they can worry about having a panic attack outdoors, and feel safer in familiar surrounds.
Homeschooling in itself can greatly benefit children with anxiety, since they enjoy the security that being near their parents guarantees. If you are homeschooling your child and you are battling anxiety together, these tips may be of help:
- Ensure they have professional help if the anxiety is strong: qualified therapist who specializes in anxiety and phobias can help your child make great progress by relying on therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to overcome anxiety. CBT enlightens patients on the inexorable link between the way they think, feel, and act. A therapist can guide your child to make tiny changes (for instance, in the things they do when they feel anxious), which in turn changes the way they think and feel.
- Let your child know what anxiety truly is: a trick!: For many people, simply knowing what anxiety is and does to their body and mind, is enough to stop this disorder in its tracks. Explain to your child what the ‘fight or flight’ response is – how our body helps us get ready to flee from danger, or face it head on, by producing specific responses – for instance, raising our heart and breathing rate. Explain how, when this response is invoked for too long, and when no real danger is involved, we have a panic attack. Hyperventilation occurs simply because we have breathed in too much oxygen too quickly (in rapid breaths). By breathing slowly (using abdominal or controlled breathing), our heart rate immediately goes down and we can stop a panic attack almost immediately.
- Consider yoga for kids: Yoga for children is all the rage; numerous double blind studies have shown that it significantly lowers rates of stress hormone, cortisol. Yoga is also excellent for concentration, and is the ultimate mindful activity. As children work to perform asanas (poses), control their breathing and perfect their form, the mind remains in the present and the worrisome thoughts that trigger an anxiety attack, are left behind. Yoga has been found to improve mood and vitality, and to lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Remember the importance of routine: Children with anxiety can benefit from following a daily routine in various ways. For one, setting specific times for meals, study, leisure and rest time can ensure they have enough rest, which is vital. Adults with anxiety are instructed to avoid caffeine and other stimulates to that they can enjoy a good night’s sleep, but since tiredness can trigger an anxiety attack, children too should obtain the appropriate hours of sleep as required by their age. Routines additionally enable a child to feel more confident about what to expect throughout the day.
- Give your child choices: One of the very best things about homeschooling is that you can cater classes to your child’s needs and interests. Pace is also vital – not overwhelming your child and being in tune to signs of tiredness. Let your child be involved in planning the day’s or week’s lessons. This will enable them to feel confident and comfortable while you are working together.
- Step into the great outdoors: Ensure your child has plenty of opportunity throughout the day to enjoy breaks in natural surrounds. Various studies have shown that nature is an essential stress buster, and that divorcing children from the environment has various negative consequences for their health and wellbeing. Teach your child the beauty of the Japanese pastime known as shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ – it sounds sophisticated but it is actually pretty simple. It involves walking through a forest or green area and opening one’s senses to the sights, sounds and textures; really enjoying the present moment, as occurs during the practice of mindfulness.