Middle school anxiety?
Ahh, the lovely years of Middle School. Is it surprising that during middle school our children are feeling an increase in anxiety? As a parent you may struggle on how to help your child because some of the same techniques you used to calm your toddler may not work the same with your preteen. You need new tricks up your sleeve to calm this middle school anxiety. You need all new stress management activities for middle school.
Why so much Anxiety in Middle School?
This is the start of a whole new phase for your child. They are physically going through so many incredible changes in puberty. Their voice changes, their body develops, their emotions run wild. They once may have been comfortable in their own skin, and now they question who they even are. Give them grace.
Here are many of the stresses that teenagers feel:
- Body Image
- Body Changes
- Drugs & Alcohol
Although your child may not be experiencing all of these stresses at once, they are most commonly experiencing quite a few at different times. As parents, we need to help them manage this anxiety they may be feeling.
Transition to Middle School
The transition from Elementary to Middle School is the biggest one your child will experience. This is their first major transition and they are moving from a setting where they were with one trusted homeroom teacher for most of the day. They only had to know one teacher’s style, and they came to trust this person to meet their needs.
Middle School is quite different. Generally kids are moving from class to class with multiple teachers a day. Not only do they have to get used to the physical act of now moving from class to class on a bell system, they have to understand the personalities and expectations of multiple teachers.
All of this increases their stress and anxiety. For some, just knowing that they need to make it to the next class in two minutes can cause much angst and worry. This is a lot of change just in a school setting, that then mixes with all the stress of their developing bodies and relationships with friends.
What to do when you notice the anxiety in your middle schooler?
First of all realize that this is common. Every child will see an increase in stress or anxiety during this time in their life. As parents, we often want to comfort our children and tell them that everything will be just fine. We may even say, “Stop the worry, it will be over in a few years.”
Instead, help your child embrace these new emotions. Say phrases like, “It is normal to feel this way.” “Everyone has stress like this.” “I love you.” “ I am here for you.”
If you do notice anxiety is getting in the way of them doing normal activities, it may be time to talk with your doctor or consult a therapist. We need to get rid of the negative stigma around therapy and understand that it is a form of self care and is needed by so many people. It makes you stronger to be able to admit that you need extra help and to seek out that support.
There are many stress management activities for middle school that you can also do at home with your children.
Give your middle schooler AGENCY.
What does it mean to give your child agency? You are giving them ownership and control over themselves. When children are younger, it is quite common for parents to make decisions for them. We often tell our children what to do, say or even how to act in certain situations.
Even if you think you are giving them complete control, often children are trying to please you and will still base their decisions on what you think as a parent. If you haven’t already, it is time to let them be in control.
Let them read about their emotions and some of the stresses they will be experiencing during this time. Find books that are written for them, so that they can learn about all of the stress and anxiety on their own. Let them develop their own plan to manage their emotions and stress.
This allows them to become self aware and to feel in control of their own body and mind. In a time when they feel they have lost control, this is one way that we can help and support them.
Stress Management Activities for Middle School
When a child is at a heightened state of anxiety, it is hard for them to process their emotions. They may not be able to reflect on what they are feeling, or even how to cope with it. Have them develop a plan for when they do feel overwhelmed and how they can calm themselves.
At first, they may not know how to calm themselves, and you can help guide them to explore which of these activities may help them.
Stress Management Activities Focused on Changes to Environment
Safe Space – Have them identify a space where they feel safe and can go to take a break.
Clean & Organize – The act of cleaning and organizing can help some feel more in control. You are able to do menial tasks that help calm your mind.
Music – listening to music can have different effects on emotions. Music can be added to a safe space to help distract and calm yourself.
Move Somewhere New – If a child is at high anxiety, sometimes just the act of moving to a different location, in the house or outside can help distract and calm down the child.
Stress Management Activities Focused on the Physical/ Body
Exercise – Get your blood pumping. Anything to make your body move and exert itself.
Massage – Have someone give you a massage or apply pressure to your body in different areas. You can also use self massagers or even a deep tissue massage gun.
Tactile– Start using your senses. Get out some bubble wrap to pop, or have molding clay around. We currently have multiple fidgets stashed around the house, such as hand strengtheners that help.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Find more information here.
Fun Activity – Do a fun activity to get yourself moving. Have a nerf gun war. Start a fake snowball game (throwing balls or balled up pieces of paper)
Simple Yoga & Stretches – Check out YouTube for some great Yoga for Teens.
Stress Management Activities Focused on the Mind
Visualizing– While in a calm state have your child tell you about a location where they feel safe and calm. Next time they are in an anxious state, simply have them try to visualize themselves in this safe spot.
Breathing Exercises & Meditation – Practice deep breathing multiple times throughout the day whenever you need a brain break. Here is a great exercise to try.
Journaling & Writing – There are many ways to journal throughout the day. You can use a thought journal to record your thoughts throughout the day, a gratitude journal, or a diary. You can also just practice free writing or creative writing to free your mind.
Distractions – Distract your brain. If you are in a heightened state try the technique of “5 things”. Find 5 things around you that you hear. Find 5 things that are blue. These will help your mind feel distracted and will allow you to calm down.
Problem Solving – This is another distraction technique. Give your brain some problems. To solve. Riddles, Mazes, Would You Rather Questions. These are examples of problems to redirect your brain energy from the anxiety.
Feelings of anxiety are normal. During the middle school years, even more so. As a parent the best thing you can do to help your child is to provide a safe and loving space for them. Be there to support them, without judgement and allow them to start practicing their independence. Engage them in this journey of coping with their anxiety and give them many tools to use.