Types of Anxiety. What Determines “Normal.” Distinguishing between Thoughts and Feelings. Dealing with Phobias. And the phenomenon of “Almost-Anxiety.” These were the topics of discussion, when some 45 parents of Rumson School District students attended another session of “Parent Acaemy” at Forrestdale School on the night of February 18.
The parents joined guest speaker Dr. Alison Block for a lecture on “Recognizing Anxiety in Elementary and Middle School Children,” with school officials including Superintendent Dr. John Bormann, School Psychologist Spencer Austin, School Counselors Jenn Crow and Jessica Piernik, and Supervisor of Student Services Vera Ridoux, also in attendance.
“What I would like is for all of you to leave here with a model to help you understand anxiety in your child, as well as steps you can take to address it,” said Dr. Block, a licensed psychologist and well-known cognitive behavioral therapist, and the Director of the Health Psychology Center in Little Silver. “Kids are great at telling us how they feel, but what we need to examine is what they are thinking when they feel this way.”
Using a matrix-style visual, Dr. Block showed how anxiety in one area — social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, or social skills — can overflow into the other areas and create problems there as well.
In addition to carefully considering a host of questions and concerns from the assembled parents, Dr. Block warned against practices that can lead to anxiety in children.
“Overscheduling is a huge source of anxiety, as are unrealistic expectations,” she explained. “And involvement in sports can create anxiety if children are exposed to levels of competition for which they are not really ready.”
“An overly rigid parenting style can create anxiety, and a ‘no-no-yes’ style can lead to manipulation and anxiety.”
“Another issue is the ‘parentifying’ of children, giving them information and involving them in problems that only adults should be privy to.”
“We are making a concentrated effort in our district through initiatives such as ‘Morning Meetings,’ during which students are able to step outside of their comfort zones,” said Superintendent Bormann, who urged parents to reach out to school district personnel with any issues relating to students’ anxiety.. “We are well aware that anxiety impacts the ability to learn, and we are doing everything we can for our students with the help of our Guidance Department.”
For information on events and initiatives as well as upcoming Parent Academy presentations, visit the Rumson School District web site at rumson.k12.nj.us.