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Teaching Coping Skills to Anxious Students

If you've taught for some time, you know that everyone in school struggles with anxieties, at least to some degree. And it isn't teachers or other staff members who struggle with anxiety. Yes, students also deal with incredible emotions such as anxiety. And it is not only teenagers that struggle with anxiety; young students are included in this category. 

So, how can you help your students that have anxiety? The best answer is to teach coping skills to your anxious students. Here are some possible coping skills you can implement in your classroom.

Encourage Reading Books or Using Workbooks

As the "custodians of knowledge," teachers have access to a vast array of books and other resources that they can unleash to help kids of all ages cope with anxiety.

Encourage reading activities to help your students escape reality. When reading, they can also find characters who deal with similar trials and emotions, providing validation to their feelings and introducing ways to reduce anxieties. So, encourage anxious students to be voracious readers!

Similarly, authors have prepared resources in the form of words and images that every child can easily relate to. Undoubtedly, workbooks are a fantastic tool to let your students express their emotions age-appropriately.

Teach Your Students to Keep a Journal

Many students find solace in writing down their feelings. Take three to five minutes each class period to have students write about their feelings. 

For older students, a simple spiral-bound notebook can do the trick. While younger students may need a daily worksheet to fill in the emotions, they are feeling. 

You can either collect your student's journals and use them as a daily check-in or allow your students to keep them confidential. You will find that students gain valuable insight into their emotions, stressors, and anxieties and can be better identified from their daily documentation. 

Fire Up their Artistic Flair

You likely know that when you tap into art, it can be used as a powerful form of expression. And there's no right or wrong way to create art.

Using various materials to fire up the kids' artistic flair encourages art as a coping skill. Consider using items like paints and pastels, building blocks, colored pencils and crayons, popsicle sticks, play-doh, clay, or sidewalk chalk.

When projects arise in your classroom, allow your students to choose their medium. Some students may thrive in a digital workspace, while others enjoy the solitude of working with paper and pencils. Allow self-expression to guide their studies. 

Be Silly and Relevant

Take time with your students to watch funny videos, movies, or cartoons. As the adage says: "laughter is the best medicine." There is plenty of educational content that is also enjoyable. Or create a project that encourages lightheartedness; creating TikToks to present projects may be ideal for students to combine their love of pop culture with classroom studies. 

Play Music to Focus Your Students

Undoubtedly, music can elicit all types of emotions in the listener. The use of music is some of the best coping skills for anxious students. If your school allows the use of cell phones, you might want to encourage students to listen to their music (with headphones) while working. 

If your school has a cell phone policy, you can play carefully chosen songs or playlists to get your students back into a state of calmness and focus. Movie scores are excellent for this!

Exercise and Meditate with Your Students

You certainly know the benefits of active physical exercise on the human body. Students can also benefit from a regular physical exercise regime. Regular exercise can relieve pain and stress and tap into the 'feel good' hormone benefits. Simple activities like stretching can even improve your student's focus!

Take your students outside as often as possible, sit on the grass, and meditate. Conduct a lesson in your amphitheater while reading Shakespeare. Getting outdoors can trigger calmness and reduce the anxiety of being stuck in a classroom.

Final Thoughts

The first step to reducing or alleviating a student's anxiety is to recognize that it is happening. Then you can find ways to encourage coping skills. Have an open discussion with your students, and ask what you can do as a class to encourage mindfulness. You may be surprised at their answers and even adopt a coping skill of theirs as your own.

Written by John O. Ndar
Education World Contributor
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