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Unraveling the Complexities of Anxious Mindsets In Children

Today, children with diverse learning difficulties often navigate a labyrinth of unique challenges. These challenges, deeply rooted in cognitive differences, can give rise to the development of anxious mindsets. In this weekly blog, we delve into the intricate reasons why children with conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, High-Functioning ASD, and anxiety, among others, find themselves ensnared by negative mindset patterns.

A Story That Sheds Light on Anxious Mindsets:

To truly grasp the intricacies of anxious mindsets, let's journey through a poignant story. Imagine teaching a class of 30 enthusiastic year 2 students during an English lesson, where they are tasked to write about the classic tale of "Jack and the Beanstalk." Amid the independent activity, one student, Olivia, stands out.

young girl studying in a classroom

As her peers busily craft their paragraphs about Jack's magical discovery of the bean, Olivia's pen remains still. Her gaze shifts uneasily from one classmate to another, her little hand trembling with anxiety. Sensing her distress, the teacher kneels beside her , maintains eye contact and gently inquires, "Olivia, is everything okay?" With a hint of vulnerability in her voice, Olivia replies with a lisp, "I can't do this, I don't know what to write, I'm not good at writing miss."

This moment strikes a chord with the teacher, who vividly recalls her own childhood experiences of self-comparison and uncertainty. Empathising deeply with Olivia's feelings of inadequacy, the teacher takes her outside for a heart-to-heart conversation.

Together, they craft an affirmation that reads, "I'm an excellent writer," "I can do hard things," and "I can do this." Olivia embraces these affirmations, repeating them daily and her teacher provides her with evidence of when she's written brilliantly before. Remarkably, Olivia rekindles her passion for writing, evolving into one of the class's most skilled writers. What's astonishing is that Olivia had always possessed this talent, but her negative beliefs, anxiety, and a fixed mindset had held her back. The power of our inner thoughts to influence our actions is vividly demonstrated in Olivia's transformation.

What is a Mindset?

Before we explore the causes of anxious mindsets and potential solutions, let's define what a mindset is.

What are the signs of an Anxious Mindset?

  • Low Self-Esteem: Children with negative mindsets may doubt their abilities and feel inferior to their peers.

  • Frustration and Anxiety: Struggles in understanding verbal instructions can lead to anxiety, creating a cycle of negativity & anxiety inside the mind.

  • Social Isolation: Some children may withdraw or remain quiet, refraining from asking questions or even asking for help.

  • Avoidance of Challenges: Fear of failure can result in avoiding challenges altogether, and giving up before the task has even begun.

  • Comparison to Others: Constant comparisons to peers' achievements can foster feelings of inadequacy.

teenage boy being comforted by his mum

So, why are children developing anxious mindsets today more than ever before?

78% of children seeking support are struggling with anxious mindsets - Place 2 Be

Anxious mindsets are undeniably on the rise in society, and we attribute this phenomenon to three primary contributing factors:

1. Unaddressed Learning Difficulties:

Learning difficulties that go unmet in the classroom can lead to the emergence of fear-based, scarcity mindsets. When students face challenges in their learning, especially when not provided with adequate support or accommodations, they may develop a mindset rooted in fear and a belief. This can trigger anxiety as they grapple with feelings of inadequacy and the fear of not measuring up to their peers.

2. The Proliferation of Technology and Screen Time:

The rapid rise of technology and increased screen time are giving rise to what we call 'stolen focus' in children, which, in turn, contributes to heightened anxiety. As children spend more time engaged with screens, they often find themselves disconnected from the real world, caught in a constant state of distraction. This phenomenon not only hinders their ability to concentrate but also fosters a sense of restlessness and unease, ultimately fuelling anxiety.

3. Societal Pressure and High Expectations:

Modern society often places significant pressure and high expectations on children and adolescents. The emphasis on achievement, success, and competition from an early age can lead to performance anxiety and perfectionism. Children may constantly feel the need to meet or exceed these societal and peer-set standards, fearing the consequences of falling short or not living up to the expectations. This pressure to excel in various aspects of life significantly contributes to the development of anxious mindsets.

Addressing these factors is essential to combat the growing prevalence of anxious mindsets in today's society. By providing proper support for learning difficulties, encouraging mindful screen time management, and promoting a balanced approach to success and achievement, we can work toward a more mentally healthy environment for our children.

So, how can we collectively empower positive mindsets?

Exploring Early Interventions: Identifying and addressing learning difficulties as early as possible can prevent the negative mindset from taking root.

Providing Supportive Environments: Creating an inclusive and supportive home or classroom environment that celebrates differences can boost a child's self-esteem.

Encouraging Open Communication: Encourage open communication between parents, teachers, and the child, ensuring that the child feels comfortable seeking help.

Delivering Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate small victories and encourage a growth mindset by focusing on effort rather than the final outcome.

Providing Proactive Mindset Support: Provide access to empowering, positive coaching services to help children cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions.

Instilling Empowerment: Teach children self-advocacy skills, helping them understand their learning difficulties and how to navigate them positively.

Promoting Peer Education: Promote empathy and awareness among peers to reduce stigmatisation and bullying.

In conclusion, the rise of anxious mindsets in children calls for collective action to empower them with positive, resilient attitudes for success. With the right support and interventions, children can develop the confidence to thrive academically and in life. It's the shared responsibility of coaches, parents, educators, and society to provide the necessary tools and opportunities, nurturing their unique needs and guiding them toward becoming confident, capable individuals.

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