Evidence shows that the rate of anxiety disorders in B.C. has not increased in the last several years, yet many educators notice higher levels of everyday anxiety in themselves, their students and their students’ parents than they did just five years ago. While there are no definitive answers as to why this may be so, educators in EASE workshops across B.C. have described a variety of factors that may contribute to higher levels of anxiety among their students. These include:
- increased screen time
- greater exposure to the news
- access to social media
- lack of sleep
- lack of exercise and poor nutrition
- increased pressure to compete and succeed both at school and outside school
- being over-scheduled
- lack of free play or downtime
- limited opportunities to practise managing feelings of discomfort and failure
- parental stress
- reduced family and community support networks
- disconnection from culture and tradition
Did you struggle with anxiety as a child? If yes, were you aware of what you were experiencing? What would have been helpful for you to be aware of at that time, and what could caring adults have done to help you cope? Record your response using Take Notes or another format of your choice.
Many of the factors that contribute to increased anxiety levels in students and their families remain out of the control of school personnel. But their impact can be minimized when families feel supported by a safe and caring school community.
One way to offer this support is through open communication. Take time to get to know your students’ families and make a plan for sharing what happens at school. Even short moments of positive communication with a parent or caregiver can go a long way toward building a trusting relationship.
If a parent or caregiver is worried about their child:
- approach the situation with compassion
- reassure them that anxiety and worries are common in childhood
- help them understand their child’s behaviour
- help them know that their child is understood and cared for
- model coping strategies that work at school
- help them find extra support for their child
Everyone can benefit from learning the EASE coping strategies. Encourage families to practise alongside their children, using EASE at Home (see text box). When children practise the EASE skills at home, they are more likely to use them when needed.
EASE at Home is a collection of six EASE lessons that have been adapted to support children’s mental health across home, school, and community settings. It includes Creating Rhythms and Routines, Helping Children Find Their Feelings, Calm Breathing, Tense and Relax, Helping Children Move Their Bodies and Creating a Helpful Mindset. The lessons are available as downloadable PDFs in both English and French.
What are some ways you can (or do) work collaboratively with families to increase protective factors, and provide caring support across environments? Record your response using Take Notes or another format of your choice.