We’re back in school and without missing a beat, I am super busy. There were two mental health crises greeting me when I walked into the school. Additionally, I’ve begun reconnecting with students who have previously received services. Some of them were seen over the summer, but others decided to take a break and resume counseling during the school term. I’m happy to be back and feel like I’m at my best working in schools.
I love middle school students. They are emotional and drama prone but so amenable to the counseling process. Some are seeking a warm, safe adult to connect with; others have significant mental health disorders that reveal themselves at this stage of development.
I’m noticing that anxiety is increasing among middle school boys. Typically, we think of girls as being prone to anxiety but in the past few years, I’ve had many referrals of boys who have overwhelming anxiety. They struggle to come to school and once they do, the symptoms of anxiety often overwhelm them. I struggle to understand why it appears that there is an increasing trend of anxiety in boys? Is it because we acculturate boys to be strong and suppress their feelings but that burden is too much? Are we just realizing that boys are as impacted by anxiety as are girls? I don’t know. However, what I’m seeing in these boys is often debilitating and significantly impairs their academics, social and peer relationships and puts tremendous strain on their families.
My approach is multidimensional. I create a team with, the parents, school counselor, school nurse and student. We develop a plan that includes the input of the student. Often times the plan includes, the ability to use a pass to visit with the school counselor or nurse if anxious. During these visits, the student will be encouraged to practice deep breathing techniques taught in therapy. If there is school avoidance, and often there is, the parents must agree to get the child to school. We find that parents often feel guilty and collude by allowing the child to stay home. This only reinforces the aniety. We also provide individual and group utilizing cognitive-behavioral techinques. Studies have shown that CBT is the optimal treatment for anxiety in chldren. Treatment typically takes 6-8 weeks before we begin to see a decrease in the symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to refer for medication evaulation.
As the new school years begins, I’ve already started identifying students who would be appropriate for an anxiety group. Middle school children are very peer oriented so it is easy to get them to agree to group work. Additonally, they benefit from knowing they’re not alone.
Children with anxiety should always be taken seriously. It is a very disruptive disorder and leads afflicted individuals feeling desperate. With treatment and support, they can learn how to cope.
Watch this video for more information: Children and Anxiety