How to Help Anxious Kids
During the course of a school year, teachers and librarians are likely to be with their students during some of the toughest moments. Whether a kid is socially anxious, overwhelmingly nervous about school work, working to manage emotions such as anger, or just needs the occasional calm-down, it’s the adults in the room who need to know how to help.
While there are students who have issues that would benefit from professional attention, many kids will appreciate simple calming techniques that are easy to teach and practice in the classroom. Let’s face it, we could all use more meditation, more breathing, more stretching, and more awareness in our lives!
By working alongside your students in a group effort to be calmer in the face of conflict, uncertainty, and a lack of confidence, you not only teach them excellent tools for engaging with the world, you also teach them that it’s a lifelong learning process, that you are still working with the same tools on the same issues. This is wonderful for them to see! You’ll help them avoid feelings of failure and defeat when they don’t “achieve” a calm frame of mind right away. They’ll use the skills they practice in your classroom or library to be healthier and happier far into the future.
Here are some terrific methods for getting kids to feel less anxious about their work, their home, their friendships, and themselves.
Play the belly breathing game! Have your students lay on the floor, if possible, and put their hands on their bellies. Ask them to breath in through their noses—breath, breath, breathe, until their bellies start to round up. Then, they can hold it for four seconds, and slowly let it all out. Wait for four more seconds, and then breath it all in again! Controlling your breath is a great way to feel in control of your environment.
Go for a walk! If you can bring kids outside to walk, all the better, but even a walk around the school or around the classroom will help kids refocus and calm down. Movement gets endorphins going, brains love a change, and fresh air is always helpful.
Everyone close their eyes and listen. When we stop trying so hard to see everything, we often find ourselves more aware of what’s actually going on. Try a mediation in which everyone closes their eyes and listens for a full minute. Ask your students what they hear, what they smell, what vibrations they feel. Often, by better connecting with our environment, we better connect with ourselves.
Draw what you see. Some activities lend themselves well to calming ourselves down. Drawing is one of those. Choose something for the group to draw, hand out pencils, crayons, paper, pens—whatever kids want to use—and let them draw for 10 minutes or so. Emphasize the fact that the finished drawing isn’t the point of the exercise, it’s the process of drawing that counts.
And always, listening is a way for educators to connect with those students who might need a little bit more reassurance during the day. Make some time in the busyness to listen to the hopes, fears, and anxieties of the students who just need to share their worries.