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Five Ways to Handle Back-to-School Anxiety

Posted by Categories: Gifted Students, Socio-Emotional

Five Ways to Handle Back-to-School Anxiety in Gifted Students | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedWe recognize that gifted students often experience anxiety as they approach a new school year. While most people experience some form of anxiety at various times, gifted students, who often feel emotions intensely, may feel anxious about returning to, or starting, a new school program. Will I have a teacher who won’t let me learn about topics that interest me or move at my own pace? Will there be students who will bully or make fun of me for being smart? Will I have to pretend to be unintelligent to have any friends? Will I have to re-learn material I already knew the first time I was taught it? Will my teacher resent me or dislike me for being different? The list of potential sources of stressful anticipation goes on and on. It’s no wonder there might be more than a little cause for anxiety.

Here’s a short list of five tactics you might consider if a moderate level of anxiety is a concern for you. If anxiety is a serious problem, it is always wise to seek assistance from a mental health professional.

  1. Acknowledge the feelings associated with anxiety. If these feelings are ignored, they will just return until they are dealt with. Feelings of anxiety are not good or bad, they just are, and need to be felt.
  2. Talk to someone about your feelings. If you are a student, talk to your parent, another supportive adult, or an appropriate educator who can be empathetic to your situation. If you are a parent or educator and you sense anxiety in students, talk to them and express understanding as well as offer solutions. Understand that such conversations may need to reoccur over time.
  3. Increase and plan for opportunities to have interactions, potentially outside of school, with like-minded peers. Socializing or learning with persons of similar interests and experiences will provide an additional level of support, satisfaction, and reassurance for you as a unique individual. If you are the adult, help your students find ways to either participate in such gatherings or events, or to organize new opportunities for themselves. When you know that you have interactions in your life that are nurturing, it should help you decrease the impact of anxiety in other areas of your life.
  4. Learn to embrace manageable risks (not those of a physically dangerous kind ?). If you are anxious about something that appears to have risk, there is fear involved. Overcoming a fear is a rewarding feeling. Fears often point us to challenges that, once conquered, teach us valuable lessons and leave us with the thrill of accomplishment. If you are the adult, praise students when they take educational and social risks. Knowing that you can overcome such obstacles should decrease anxiety.
  5. Learn to speak up for yourself; be assertive without being rude, disrespectful, or aggressive. Knowing that you are able to express your concerns, desires, or goals to adults and others, in a manner that can be productive, gives you confidence and self-efficacy in personally being able to deal with potentially anxiety-producing situations.

The readers may undoubtedly have other methods of dealing with anxiety that have worked well for them. We encourage you to share these methods with us and other readers.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful, anxiety- free September!

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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