All kids are going to feel anxious at school sometimes. Students are held to high expectations with tests and classroom behavior, and there’s a lot of social pressure. Schools are a huge source of anxiety for most kids but especially for kids with anxiety disorders. The pressure can overwhelm them and can lead to panic attacks.
As the parent of a child with high anxiety, you need to know how to help them when overwhelmed. Panic attacks are sudden periods of paralyzing fear and physical reactions to a perceived threat, even when there is no real threat. Having a panic attack at school can be both terrifying and embarrassing for teens with anxiety disorders.
If your teen has severe anxiety, going to a traditional school can become nearly impossible. Some teens have a better schooling experience when they attend a therapeutic boarding school where the teachers are all trained in helping students with anxiety. Students still attend classes and get high school credits, but they also receive personalized therapy to help them overcome their anxiety.
What is a panic attack?
Having a panic attack feels terrible. It’s as if something horrible and terrifying is happening, and the body reacts accordingly. Unfortunately, panic attacks usually happen when there is no visible threat.
So, it can look like the person having a panic attack is “freaking out” for no reason. As you can imagine, this can be especially troublesome at school.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
Racing or forceful heartbeat
Feeling nauseous or vomiting
Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
Suddenly feeling hot, cold, or dizzy
Feeling a sense of doom or dread
At school, numerous things can trigger a panic attack in teens with high anxiety. The pressure of meeting scholastic expectations, behavioral expectations, and social expectations can be too much for them. Your teen’s teachers and guidance counselors need to have a plan in place to help your teen if they have a panic attack.
Helping kids through panic attacks at school
Teach your kid some anxiety management techniques that can help them calm back down when they have a panic attack. You won’t always be with them when their anxiety flares up, so they need to learn to manage it without you.
Some common anxiety management techniques at school include:
Getting away from the stressful situation until they calm down. At school, this might look like going to the guidance counselor’s office or an empty classroom and sitting quietly until they can think clearly again.
Using breathing techniques to get their breath and heart rate under control. This could include counting their breaths to focus on breathing or closing their eyes to eliminate other distractions. You could also buy a straw stick for your kid to wear at school as a tangible way to focus on their breathing when they start getting overwhelmed.
Take time to meditate to calm their mind. Some schools will provide a safe place for students to spend time alone and calm down when they get too stressed. If this is an option, teach your kid some meditation techniques that help them calm down and refocus on the present.
Talk to your kid’s teachers and guidance counselors about their anxiety. They should be able to sit down with you and your kid to discuss the situation and make a plan. Most schools have a system to help teens who get overwhelmed by testing or need time away from the classroom.
If any strategies help your teen calm down at home, see if they can use those same strategies at school. It’s especially helpful for your teen’s development if they learn strategies to manage their anxiety and use them in multiple situations.
The most important thing is for your teen to learn to manage their anxiety and continue their education. If a traditional school setting does not work for your kid, they might do better in a different type of school. At Sundance Canyon Academy, we work with countless teen boys who struggle with anxiety in a traditional school setting.
Contact us today to find out if our school is right for your son.