Homeschooling is one of those wonderful blessings that presents constant opportunities for growth and change. Homeschooling an anxious child, well, that can just rock your world!
Anxiety is a very real disorder, adrenaline kicks in and suddenly your child becomes out of control and no longer thinks clearly. No matter what you say or do your child will either resist you or he will shut down altogether. This is the fight or flight response caused by adrenaline.
However challenging, there are ways to homeschool an anxious child. It’s going to take work on your part. You’ll need to study your child and always remember to not take your child’s behavior or tantrums personally. You’re going to have to be a lot more flexible and patient but you can do it.
Here are some ways to help you successfully homeschool your anxious child.
1. Preparation & Routine
Preparing lessons and projects ahead of time is already an important part of homeschooling but it becomes even more important when your child has anxiety. It’s crucial to know ahead of time what you’re doing each day and how you’re going to do it. Know where your supplies are, prepare lessons ahead of time and be sure to turn your phones off.
When you’re distracted during your homeschool day it can increase anxiety in your child. They may feel stressed and anxious when they don’t know what to expect each day. They’ll feel frustrated when they have to wait for you while you’re looking for something and all they want to do is to complete an assignment but they need your help.
Take the extra time on the weekends or during the evenings before your next school day to prepare. Have a schedule posted where they can see it.
We had a small white board in the kitchen where I wrote down any appointments we had for the day along with the children’s chores. Rather than an hourly schedule, I kept a list of subjects we would work on because we found that an hourly schedule caused my daughter to feel stressed.
The atmosphere of your home is such a crucial part of a successful homeschool. To create an atmosphere that is non-stressful, conducive to learning and relaxing you may need to make sure that there are separate places for your children to do their work.
Your anxious child may not like hearing a sibling practicing Math facts or hearing you teach a lesson to another sibling. The ticking clock, humming fridge, and even the birds outside may drive them nuts.
My daughter would get anxious whenever I called her name in order to tell her something that I wanted to ask her to do. I learned to write little love notes to her with her school or chore assignments. She also found that focusing on only one thing helped her with her anxiety.
If you’re not sure whether or not your child’s environment is increasing their anxiety ask them and begin to take note of when or where their anxiety occurs.
You will need a lot of flexibility in your homeschool when teaching an anxious child. It may be necessary to change curriculum, to change the time of day you homeschool, to choose not to do formal lessons and the list goes on.
It’s possible that the curriculum or subject matter you’ve chosen to teach is setting off the anxiety in your child.
You may need to figure out how you can teach the subject without provoking their anxiety. You might try using curriculum for younger grades for that subject. It might be necessary to skip that subject matter altogether until a later grade. Sometimes talking through their fears can help.
“Never put a curriculum above your child’s emotional health. They can always learn the subject at a later time.”
We found that history always provoked anxiety as did literature. We did some research and found ways to learn history and literature without the reality of man’s sin and depravity.
4. Provide Free Time
I found that my anxious child was extremely creative. She thrived with a lot of free time. She wrote deep and meaningful songs during that difficult time and learned to play the guitar.
“Give your anxious child-free time but be sure it’s not used to sit and be anxious.”
You may need to help them choose productive things they can do during that free time like playing music, doing art projects, reading, exercising or playing sports. These are great activities that can be used for extracurricular credit in High School.
5. A Nutrient-Dense Diet
Our anxious children need the absolute best nutrition we can possibly give them. If they’re picky find nutritional foods they will eat by experimenting and getting them involved. Smoothies are a great way to sneak veggies into the diet. Anxious children typically need more fat in their diet in the form of grass-fed meats, farm-raised eggs, avocados, coconut oil, fish oil. nuts & seeds. They also benefit from specific vitamins and supplements like B vitamins, zinc, GABA and essential fatty acids.
Be sure to feed their growing brains so they can have the best nutritional support for healing. Skip the sugary fruit juices and make fruit infused water with a little stevia. Be creative and get them involved in planning and making their meals.
Journaling your child’s anxiety patterns can be extremely helpful in identifying what their triggers are. You may begin to see a pattern. Include a food diary in your journal and you may discover that gluten or dairy is a big contributor. Journaling can help you discover so many things about your child’s anxiety that you didn’t realize before. It can also be very helpful if you were to take your child to a doctor or therapist.
Journal your feelings and prayers. Parenting and homeschooling an anxious child is very stressful. Sometimes putting pen to paper can help you sort out your feelings and help you with the stress that you’re under.
Having support is such a crucial tool for homeschooling your anxious child. Having a therapist who can teach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), coping techniques and help you learn to interact with your child in ways that will help and not exasperate your child is probably one of the most important things you can do for your child and yourself.
It is possible to homeschool your anxious child but I would never do it alone. Interacting with someone who has anxiety can be overwhelming and frustrating if you don’t have the tools and understanding you need. You may even need to teach your other children coping skills because their sibling’s anxiety most definitely affects them too.
While medication can play an important role for some children, I believe that most of the time nutritional support, dietary changes, and natural methods can provide more long-term help by getting to the root of why your child has anxiety and treating the cause, not just the symptoms.
Possible medical causes of anxiety in children:
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Gluten is being shown to cause anxiety in children
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Bacterial infections like Lyme disease and Bartonella
- Strep Infection (PANDAS)
- Mold exposure
The most wonderful and safe place for an anxious child to be is at home with their family. Homeschooling the anxious child is a great lifestyle choice. You can successfully homeschool your anxious child when you have the tools and support you need.