School Anxiety = No Confidence
In the last few weeks a half dozen school anxious students have come to see me for therapy. By the beginning of October and into mid-November the hopes of a good school year are fading for those children with anxiety. Some children panic at the thought of spending another day in school and fight to stay home on school mornings, others know they are falling behind in schoolwork and already feel hopeless about keeping up in class. For many students their anxiety is generalizing, spreading to nervousness about spending time even with friends or family in fun times.
These students range in age from 8 to 21, and though their symptoms vary, and their way of coping is quite different they do have one major thing in common: all have low self-esteem and during therapy can express clearly that they have no confidence and often feel worthless and helpless.
Chronic anxiety drains energy—just trying to get through the school day, trying to cope with disturbing symptoms is exhausting for students from kindergarten to college. This anxious fatigue often turns into feelings of being weak, being unable to meet the challenges found in the learning environment, which can spread to having no confidence dealing with daily living. When that happens, any confidence the child does have will be lost. And as confidence decreases, anxiety will increase and the child’s world can become restricted to only “safe places.”
Anxiety is a mind/body condition. Body language is telling in an anxious child. I’ve seen chronically anxious children almost shrink into themselves when they express how they feel about being in school, and their voices match their body-language—low, weak, and almost inaudible. If you have a school anxious child, you know what I’m talking about. How can a child handle academic and social challenges, learn how to express themselves, and experience joy in living when they are in survival mode all day long?
Helping anxious children has many facets to it. One of the most important is to build a child’s confidence so that he or she believes that overcoming anxiety is possible—that will ease hopelessness and begin the process of healing and the development of healthy self-worth. My book offers guidelines and exercises to help you to help your child build a positive self-image, such as helping your child find his strengths, and learning how to calm himself when anxiety hits—but this blog is about offering readers other ideas and resources beyond my book. So, I invited Sally Morgan, a voice coach to be a guest blogger to write about the connection between anxiety, the voice, and self-image.
Fear and Anxiety Robs a Child of His Natural Energy and Vibrant Voice.
Childhood anxiety has become epidemic in proportion. Children are feeling unbearable panic that manifests itself as school anxiety, separation anxiety and social anxiety. One manifestation of children’s anxiety is a weak speaking voice, leaving a child literally unable to speak up for herself.
Anxiety begins in the psyche and then takes up residence in body where it causes all sorts of havoc. Muscular tension that results from anxiety has a tendency to re-align posture.
When posture is collapsed, so is the mechanism that produces speech. Since the body is the instrument that produces speech, a child’s ability to speak with a strong voice is often effected.
Infants and toddlers have perfect, erect posture that allows the voice to function naturally with no muscular tension. The baby’s vocalization is instinctive. The baby is hungry, his brain responds with “take a breath and yell.” The absence of vocal strain testifies to a naturally functioning voice.
Along with slumped posture and resulting weak voice, comes a lower level of energy. When the instrument is collapsed, you have to work harder to produce sound. Now place on top of that, the child has to work harder to be heard, the easiest route is to just give up on making others hear and respond to your voice. Speaking can be exhausting. Raising your hand in class and then speaking so that everyone can hear might be more than an anxiety-filled child can handle.
Sally has created Superhero Self-Esteem™ an education of a different kind. Kids discover the strongest part of themselves – it’s already there inside of them – their Superhero.
Try this Superhero Self-Esteem™ vocal exercise with your child:
Encourage your child to march in place and count to 10 (or 20 or 30) in a strong voice. The physical action of marching connects the voice to the body for stronger, more supported vocal production. Repeating this exercise can be done at any time. Repetition will make the voice grow stronger.
Make this fun—march along too.
To find out more about Sally Morgan’s program go to: www.SuperherSelfEsteem.com it offers practical exercises to help restore your child’s strong, free voice.