Anxiety is a growing issue facing American adolescents today.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis, writer for the New York Times Magazine, recently published an article illuminating the pressures facing our youth, depicting gripping personal accounts of anxiety.
What was not illuminated is just how young children are being affected. The reality is that children as young as preschoolers can be afflicted with some form of anxiety and the impact can be long lasting. Research suggests that over 40% of preschool-aged children with anxiety disorders still experience symptoms four years later, and by the age of eighteen almost one in three will meet the criteria for this disorder. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health issue experienced by both children and adolescents.
But what we also need to bear in mind is that when children are young, anxiety may manifest itself differently. Dr. Donna Housman, founder and CEO of the Housman institute, observes: “When a child is young, anxious behaviors may exhibit themselves as the child shutting down, becoming quiet, disengaging, easily unraveling, or crying when unprovoked.” In talking about these behaviors with young children, Dr. Housman notes: “Adults should be mindful about the verbiage they use. Rather than discussing anxiety, words such as ‘worries’ are easier for children to connect to. They are more developmentally appropriate.”
Dr. Housman also remarks that given the increased prevalence of anxiety, we as educators, policy makers, and parents must do a better job of scaffolding our youth to successfully be able to recognize, express, and manage difficult emotions when they inevitably arise.
We can start young by better supporting infants and preschoolers on how to effectively express and manage emotions. By helping children develop the necessary skills in self-regulation, emotion regulation, and emotional competence, we also aid our children in becoming more resilient, persist through frustration, and more successfully overcome challenges as they arise—before becoming clinical problems.
Emotions, behavior, and thinking are all intertwined. By incorporating this philosophy into our early childhood education, children will better develop the necessary competencies that support healthy development through life’s inevitable stressors.
Keeping Your Students’ and Your Mental Health Strong in Stressful Times
“As educators — before you can help children deal with their stress you must learn how to cope with your own stress and the feelings that accompany stress.” - Dr. Donna Housman
At Housman Institute, we believe our role is to nurture the social, emotional, and cognitive well-being of all students and educators without bias. It is critical that every child feel recognized and validated from their earliest days—to understand that their voice matters, regardless of background or experience and is being heard. We listen to, respect and support the needs of our educators as we recognize their critical role in a child's emotional growth and development. Together we need to begin the important work to help all our children and educators, as we move toward a more equitable environment for early learning, setting the stage for the building blocks of empathy and conflict resolution, and a more equitable future for us all. To learn more about how our program works to address equity in early childhood school communities... visit here.