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Mental Health

What Teachers Should Know About Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

Every child holds a reservoir of potential and greatness within them, waiting to be unlocked by a harmonious blend of support, drive, environment, and interaction. It is essential to understand that the path to unlocking this potential is fraught with challenges, such as anxiety, that can significantly impact a child’s learning experience. Anxiety, a common issue among children and adolescents, can act as a roadblock, inhibiting their ability to learn, participate, and interact in the school environment.

The Impact of Anxiety

Anxiety thrives in situations rife with the potential for failure, shame, humiliation, or embarrassment—situations plentiful in educational settings. While anxiety is not always rational, it is very real and can be extremely overpowering, changing the perception of situations from manageable to hazardous. It affects not just the mental state but also the way children and teens perceive and handle educational and social scenarios.

The Role of Teachers

Teachers play a pivotal role in mitigating the impacts of anxiety on children and adolescents. They have the power to shape the environment and offer the needed support to help students overcome their anxiety and reach their full potential. The uniqueness of every child demands an individualized approach, focusing on creating an atmosphere conducive to the child’s growth and learning.

Understanding Anxious Students

1. Fear of Participation

Anxiety makes participation in class challenging. Students with anxiety may fear contributing due to the potential of giving wrong answers or appearing unintelligent. Teachers can combat this by facilitating small group discussions where anxious students feel safer and more willing to share.

2. Spotlight Anxiety

Being called on unexpectedly can trigger anxiety, causing the student’s mind to blank. The sudden spotlight inhibits their thinking process, rendering them unable to respond appropriately. Providing a heads-up and a chance to prepare can help in such situations.

3. The Power of Small Groups

Smaller, trust-filled groups can serve as a sanctuary for anxious students, enabling them to voice their thoughts without fear. It’s a step toward helping them feel secure and confident enough to participate in larger groups.

4. The Need for Familiarity

The need to feel secure is paramount, and placing students with at least one familiar adult in unfamiliar situations can make a significant difference. This provides them with a sense of stability and comfort, allowing them to slowly adapt and integrate.

5. Encouragement and Queries

Providing positive reinforcement and encouraging questions can help build a student’s confidence. By creating specific times for questions, teachers can facilitate a more inclusive and welcoming environment for anxious students.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Acknowledging Anxiety

Helping students understand that experiencing anxiety is normal can make them feel less isolated. It’s crucial to create a dialogue around anxiety, emphasizing that it’s a shared experience and doesn’t alienate them from their peers.

Discovering Hidden Potentials

Students may not always showcase their full abilities due to anxiety. Continued engagement and gently pushing the boundaries can help in revealing their hidden potential. Teachers need to be persistent and patient, allowing students to explore their capabilities at their own pace.

Prioritizing Security over Indulgence

Anxious students seek a secure environment, not indulgence. Establishing connections and making them feel secure can help them explore and learn more effectively. Regular, personal interactions can help in fostering a sense of security and belonging.

Avoiding Unnecessary Attention

Drawing undue attention can be overwhelming for anxious students. Instead, discreet appreciation and encouragement can make them feel valued and recognized without feeling exposed or vulnerable.

Handling Freezing Episodes with Care

If a student freezes due to anxiety, it’s essential to handle the situation with sensitivity. Reducing the focus on them and providing them an opportunity to recover can make the environment less daunting for them.

Ensuring Clarity of Communication

Anxiety can obstruct the comprehension of information. Thus, clear and concise communication is essential to ensure that anxious students grasp the concepts being taught effectively.


Anxiety in children and adolescents, while common, can pose substantial challenges in the learning environment. The role of teachers is pivotal in recognizing and addressing anxiety and ensuring a supportive, inclusive, and conducive learning environment. By adopting empathetic approaches and understanding the unique needs of each student, teachers can significantly alleviate the impact of anxiety and help students unlock their full potential.

Every strategy, from fostering small group interactions to avoiding unnecessary spotlight and acknowledging anxiety, contributes to building a foundation where every child can thrive. The road may be marked with hurdles, but with patience, understanding, and the right support, every child can overcome them, unveiling their brilliance and enriching the world with their potential. The beauty lies in witnessing the magic unfold as each child, with their unique strengths, navigates the journey of learning and self-discovery, illuminating the path for themselves and those around them.

Anxious children and teenagers have amazing abilities that humanity needs more of. Unless you’re one of the people they trust, you’ll often only see the tip of what they’re capable of. School and learning were never intended to be about how outgoing or comfortable children are in starting conversations with an adult. Greatness is built piece by piece, and the foundations are the finest when the environment is safe. Anything you are able to do to assist this along will go a long way towards assisting anxious children and teens in finding their own unique way to express themselves. The more we are able to assist children to feel more courageous, better, bigger, and more powerful than their fears, the more we are able to open up the world to them, and they will, in turn, open up their very lovely world to us.