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School Approach to Reducing Teen Anxiety

by Shawna Buckley

school counselor talks to teenage female student about anxiety
Shawna Buckley and Zoe '28 talk during 8th-grade seminar

Remember the COVID years? Let’s hope we never go back there again! Levels of adolescent anxiety and depression increased during the pandemic as online learning forced students to trade peer connection with increased screen time. While these conditions abated somewhat with the return to school, teen anxiety levels still remain high due to a number of factors including gaps in learning, increased workload post COVID, and a lack of a feeling of proficiency–real or imagined. In fact, researchers have long drawn a direct connection to screen time, FOMO (fear of missing out) and academic pressure. The difference now is that access to mental health professionals has decreased as demand has increased. So how can WRUS combat these trends and create communities where students can thrive? 


How can WRUS reduce trends of anxiety among teens?

White Labradoodle emotional student support dog
Archie is a calming presence for many WRUS students

We strongly believe that relationships matter. Research certainly bears this out. Students learn better when they know that they are in the care and mentorship of adults who want them to succeed. Small classes, like the ones we find at WRUS, are also integral to student success. The fact that we work with students in small classes where we can interact on a personal level and ensure that content and skills are being imparted matter. Teaching students resilience is critically important as well. We don’t want our students to go through their middle and high school experience stress-free; after all, we all navigate stress and experience episodic failure. It’s part of life, as we know. Our goal is to help students realize that they can navigate stress and anxiety and get knocked down every once in a while and still succeed. A big part of our philosophy entails empowering our students to strive to achieve big things in a nurturing setting where they know that adults care about their success. Nothing makes us happier than to see our students exclaim with delight when they achieve a milestone that heretofore has eluded them. It’s why we work with kids. 

What role does partnership play in reducing anxiety for teens?

Another key piece of building emotional resilience lies in the relationships we forge with parents. The trust and communication that flows between WRUS faculty and administrators and parents provides the foundation from which our students and children can thrive. 

As we know, growth is not always linear and it comes with stressors. Each student is on their own path and we all appreciate that. Daily trials and bouts of anxiety are commonplace. The environment and intentional community we’ve created is well suited to help students overcome their anxiety. We offer spaces to calm down and reset. Our academic support teams work with outside providers to ensure continuity of care and we offer academic support blocks to lower anxiety surrounding academic achievement. We encourage and model kindness and respect for one another. 

Our students are a gift. They have been through terrifically difficult times and need an environment that will help them pull the best out of themselves. Anxiety will always play a role. We know, however, that through caring relationships and partnerships with parents, we can help our kids manage their learning differences and strive to meet their potential.

For more information about social emotion support at WRUS, click here.


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