As a teacher, you will be aware that from time to time children in your class will display signs of anxiety and distress. Even very young children can be greatly affected by upsetting events at home and at school, and these may well have a negative impact on the child’s behaviour. As well as showing signs of anxiety, children under stress may react by becoming aggressive towards others, or conversely, by becoming withdrawn. If you have a good relationship with a child’s parent, they may tell you when something has happened at home to upset the child, but often you may only become aware of the problem when you observe the child behaving uncharacteristically in class.
Children will suffer anxiety from many of the everyday difficulties that affect adults, and in particular from very distressing life events, such as parents’ divorce or separation, or a death in the family. For some children in such situations, being at school in a supportive and safe atmosphere may be a haven from the unhappiness at home. Try to create an atmosphere in your class where children feel safe to talk about their feelings, and where they can come to you and talk about their worries. Encourage children to support their friends and to be particularly kind to them at such times.
School itself can also be a source of worry for children, particularly where friendship issues are concerned. Conflict between children, and in extreme cases, bullying, are all too common causes of childhood unhappiness. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy, and it’s important to make children aware of this and to emphasise that if bullying is going on, they must tell a trusted adult. Again, try to create an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect in the classroom so that if a child suffers from or witnesses bullying, he or she feels able to talk to you or a colleague about it.