By Mary O’KEEFE
In a continuing effort to reach out to students and parents concerning pressures that kids face in school and in life, the Crescenta Valley High School administration and community are presenting “Parent Informational Session: Student Anxiety.”
The meeting will be hosted by Pam Erdman, a marriage and family therapist. For years Erdman was one of the therapists in the ongoing parent education programs hosted by CV Alliance, and she continues with that program now hosted by the YMCA of the Foothills. Erdman has also held a series of discussions with parents at the high school in the past as well.
The meeting on Feb. 9 will focus on sharing information with parents on student anxiety, said Janelle Evans, counselor at CVHS.
“Pam is going to be covering why our children are suffering under so much anxiety and panic,” Evans said. “She will cover some of the symptoms of anxiety.”
She added that counselors are “definitely seeing increased levels of anxiety.”
Evans has been at CVHS for seven years and, since her arrival, she has noticed this trend in rising anxiety levels.
“I think it is coming from a lot of different [areas]. From academic pressures and pressure to achieve a level of perfection; in order for [some students] to feel successful they need to excel in everything,” Evans said.
That pressure, which many times is placed on the student by the student him or herself, creates anxiety.
“And there is constant competition here [among] kids, from what classes they are taking and what grades they get. They are constantly comparing themselves to each other,” she added.
The counselors, teachers and administration have noticed some of the symptoms of anxiety, like sleep disorders and “blanking out” in class.
The invitation to attend this parent event has been extended to elementary school parents but Evans said she feels parents of a child of any age could benefit from this information.
In addition to emotional and psychological effects of anxiety, Evans said she has also seen physical effects from anxiety including stomach disorders and migraines.
“We have seen an increase in migraines,” she said.
The night’s discussion will also include social media and the role it plays in a student’s life.
These findings, said Evans, Erdman and others who work with children, parallel a survey that was released in 2013 by the American Psychological Association (APA). According to those findings “teens say their stress level is higher than levels reported by adults” in the same time period.
The survey, titled “Stress in America,” was conducted online among 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens in the U.S. in August 2013. The findings suggested that “unhealthy behaviors associated with stress may be manifesting early in people’s lives,” according to APA.
In the survey, more than one third of the teens reported fatigue or feeling tired and about one quarter of teens reported skipping meals due to stress. Few teens reported their stress levels declining; most reported stress was increasing throughout the school year.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the survey found that more than “one in 10, or 13%, say they never set aside time to manage stress.”
It is not uncommon for parents to compare their time in school with their children’s time in school. Stress over homework is not new; however, the ever-increasing competition to get into college, financial uncertainty of getting a higher education or getting a job straight out of school, and families with less free time are new concerns that face students today.
The same type of APA survey conducted in 2010 found a disconnect between what “children say they’re worrying about and what their parents think is stressing them,” according to APA.
The 2010 survey found stress and its symptoms were going unnoticed by parents.
“While 44% of children report sleeping difficulties, only 13% of parents think their kids have trouble sleeping,” APA stated.
Evans has seen the reality of these survey findings and has begun working with classes in mindfulness as another tool for students to use in coping with anxiety.
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment,” according to Greater Good at U.C. Berkeley. “When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
“Mindfulness is not about being calm or thoughtless; it is accepting the moment for what it is and understanding it,” Evans said.
Erdman will focus her talk for parents but students are also invited to attend.
The meeting will be held at the CVHS MacDonald Auditorium in the 4400 block of Ramsdell Ave. in La Crescenta. The meeting will
begin at 6:30 p.m.