The Academic Effects of Anxiety in Teens and How Parents and Teachers Can Help

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A teen’s anxiety disorder will affect their success at school. Though anxious teens may attempt to keep their anxiety hidden, their worrying and anxiety can greatly interfere with their daily routine, including their academics. While every teen responds to anxiety differently, anxiety tends to affect teens at school in the following ways:

  • Refusal to attend school
  • Lack of group participation
  • Poor test scores due to testing anxiety
  • Poor participation
  • Withdrawn in the classroom
  • Inability to complete assignments
  • Late or incomplete homework assignments
  • Avoidance and fear of school-related events
  • Poor performance at school
  • Behavioral problems at school

What Parents Can Do to Help Their Teen with Anxiety at School

If an anxiety disorder is causing your teen to struggle at school academically, the first step parents can take is to talk the teen’s teachers, principal, and/or counselor about your concerns. They will likely recognize some manifestations of your teen’s anxiety at school but they may not know how they can best assist your son or daughter. Use your concerns and your teen’s diagnosis to open lines of communication.Ask these professionals to monitor changes and behavior at school and in the classroom so you can inform your doctor of any progress or problems, or ask them to speak to the doctor or therapist directly.

Throughout this process, parents and teens have the right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to request appropriate accommodations related to the diagnosis.

What Teachers and Schools Can Do To Help Teens with Anxiety

Anxious teens perform best in a calm, supportive, and organized classroom. Because change and uncertainty can be unsettling, a structured classroom, calmly disciplined, can help children feel safe and know what to expect. An ideal situation is a teacher who maintains authority positively, using reason and respect rather than fear for punishment.

It’s important for teachers of teens with anxiety to be sensitive when it comes to seating within the classroom, class participation, providing clear directions, and testing conditions. Finding a time to meet with the teen and their parent to discuss individualized modifications and preference, and perhaps establish warning signals, can provide much relief to the student and can reduce their anxiety.

Furthermore, establishing one “safe” person at school who understands your teens worries and anxieties can make the difference between a teen attending school and staying home. A guidance counselor, principal, nurse, or teacher can be identified as a point person for the teen to check in with briefly to help manage any anxious thoughts as needed.