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Mental Health Awareness for Teachers and Parents

Anxiety among children is evident in our classrooms. As to the reasons or causes, I leave that to further research. But, I see the effects of anxiety on children. They may withdraw, act out, or avoid school altogether. These are all warning signs that must be communicated immediately to parents and administration. It is helpful for teachers to have dated notes on behaviors that are not typical, including social as well as cognitive changes. Good teachers often report 'a feeling that something is not quite right.' Parents will appreciate concerns, especially if they have noticed changes as well.

The main and immediate goal is to reduce the anxiety for the child. When and where and what are the triggers? A thorough detailed history must be taken by health care professionals.

Strategies must be implemented to reduce the anxiety. That may look like reduced demands for production of work, less participation in discussions or being called upon for an answer. Sometimes it is difficult to get all staff on board, but if the goal is to keep the child at school, and lower her anxiety, everyone must follow the plan.

It may mean that the child has a plan of action to follow, when she is feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps she puts a pass on her desk, and leaves the room to go to a designated safe area: library, office, or resource room. The goal is to keep the child safe, supervised, and with some self-control over managing her anxiety.

Of course, these steps are only part of the plan. Parents must ensure that the anxiety is being dealt with under a doctor's supervision, and counseling is provided for the child and the family. If medication is required, it must be taken. The adults must communicate with each other, keeping in mind the necessity of privacy.

Children are resilient but it is so important to act with awareness of the fragility of mental health at any age.