AnxietyIntegrated Support for Elementary, Middle & High School Education

Already on the rise nationally in recent decades, anxiety is now even more common among young people as a result of additional stresses and learning loss from the pandemic. We all have some level of anxiety, and often highly sensitive students have higher levels. To a point, it is a positive trait, enabling us to focus and respond. Students who experience excessive anxiety that presents as intermittent worry or more persistent feelings, can benefit from the right support so that their emotions don’t get in the way of educational success. Fortunately, McLean School has always been a place where students feel understood and accepted. We know that successfully supporting all of our students calls for a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of social-emotional complexities and, specifically, the many ways anxiety affects learning. Our Abilities Model® informs and guides support of all our students’ needs, including those with anxiety.

Building Positive Relationships

The term “anxiety” is broad, and refers to a range of experiences, from intermittent worry to persistent feelings that interfere with one’s ability to feel successful in the classroom. Wherever a student falls within that range, anxiety can cause students to shut down and not be open to learning. Students with diagnosed learning challenges, or who are adopted, are particularly susceptible. Children with ADHD, for example, are three times more likely to experience anxiety. At McLean, positive relationships–with peers and adults–play a very important role in helping to ease anxiety while at the same time allowing them to build self-confidence, trust, and tolerance for uncomfortable feelings and situations.

Utilizing Mindfulness

To help students feel less anxious we structure our program to make academics as accessible as possible. We model and foster a growth mindset; instilling in our students the belief that with determination, perseverance, and an open mind, change is not only possible but inevitable. We do this by creating opportunities for personal connection at every grade level through small classes, lunch bunches, advisories, and differentiated academic groups and an incredible scope of social emotional programs, including the practice of mindfulness, which allows students to relax and be open to learning. McLean’s Responsive Classroom curriculum, and age appropriate code of conduct in each division promote community building and provide a context for emotional growth. Our focus on routines, clear expectations, scaffolding, previewing, and–perhaps most importantly–empathy and flexibility combine to create a safe space for students to embrace and address their strengths and challenges alike.

Our Director of Student and Community Wellness as well as Counselors in each division work closely with teachers and administrators to be sure that everyone is seen and supported. Whether it’s part of their official job description or not, each and every one of our faculty and staff are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our students–because our commitment is to help students succeed academically, socially, and emotionally, and reach their full potential as they prepare for college and life.