New Brunswick

Technology, social pressure adding to back-to-school anxiety

A clinical therapist who works with youth says he's not surprised that many children are anxious about going back to school as high performance testing, social pressures, and the pervasive use of electronics can all contribute to that sense of unease.

Get kids talking about their feelings and limit the use of electronics, says clinical therapist

Children and Youth Mental Health survey finds that anxiety is a concern for a majority of youth. (Paulius Brazauskas/Shutterstock)

A clinical therapist who works with youth says he's not surprised that many children are anxious about going back to school.

Jason Jones, a therapist at the Atlantic Wellness Centre in Riverview, told Information Morning Moncton that high-performance testing and social pressures are common reasons for that feeling of anxiousness.

But the fact many kids carry electronics and cellphones these days can also contribute to that sense of unease.

"They're not as focused as they used to be, they're kind of distracted a lot more," Jones said.

"Although there are situations where being online and being in certain forums have helped young people, I've heard that. But in general kids are being invaded with a lot more stimulus today."

Jones says even adults can find it stressful keeping up with high-speed communication, that technology throws at them.

He recommends taking a break from technology as a family, and eating a meal together, as one way to lesson anxiety.

"Just spend that time talking about your day, the good, the bad, the ups and downs," Jones said.

Jason Jones is a therapist at the Atlantic Wellness Centre in Riverview 7:56
Limiting the use of technology in the evenings is also a good idea, he said, as kids who have unfettered access will turn to their devices at all hours which affects sleep.

"If we're tired, we're more agitated, irritable, we anger quicker, we don't think rationally," said Jones.

Technology means less solace from bullies

Technology has also allowed bullying to enter what used to be a sanctuary for most.

"If I was bullied at school when I was younger, I would go home and I'd be away from it," he said.

"Now you can't escape it, because it's on Facebook, it's on Kik, it's on all these other sites too,"

Jones said anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms such as stomach aches, dizziness, sweating, panic attacks and obsessive behaviour.

But he said anxiety is common and experiencing normal amounts of it is a good thing.

However, Jones said parents should consider getting help for their children if the amount of anxiety becomes severe.

"When it becomes debilitating, when, let's say kids are avoiding situations or saying they can't do something, then it's probably at a level that needs some attention," said Jones.

'The fear is real'

He also said communication is the key between parents and kids.

He said it's important to acknowledge, and not minimize, the fear some children feel.

"Validate the feelings for the youth … be able to talk that over and not say 'don't be ridiculous,' because the fear is real," said Jones.

But Jones also said to encourage kids to take on small challenges to help them build their self esteem over time.

"With each victory they can gain confidence that this is something that I don't have to be scared of or this is something that I can do," he said.

Jones said the other way is through physical exercises, such as deep breathing or mindfulness exercises that calm the body down.

"Young people really have to develop their emotional vocabulary and ability to express it, because one of the biggest problems is the inability to regulate their emotions a lot of times," he said.