5 Tips to Help Kids With Panic Attacks at School

If you've ever struggled with a panic attack, you know how it can make you feel both during and after. As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to imagine your teen going through anxiety and panic attacks. What triggers your panic attack may not be the same things that are triggering your teen. This can make it a challenge to figure out how to best help your teen work their way through the situation.

Feeling anxiety is a healthy response to some of the situations that your teen may be faced with. It's not healthy for your teen to feel high levels of anxiety all of the time.

It's tempting to think that your teen shouldn't have anything to feel anxious about. After all, he's not concerned about paying bills, keeping up with the obligations of raising a family, and doesn't need to have the same on-the-job stresses adults have. In truth, teens are just as likely to feel anxiety as adults. They are faced with several stressors and anxiety triggers unique to their age, circle of friends, and family dynamics.

The good news is that you can do a few things to help your teen and empower your teen to help himself when he's at school or out with friends.

Potential triggers for teen panic attacks

Before we move on to helpful tips for your teen, let's discuss what could potentially trigger your teen. As we all remember, the teen years can be fraught with a rollercoaster of emotions. Any of them is enough to cause most adults a significant amount of stress. For a teen who hasn't yet learned critical coping skills, it can be challenging.

Some of the concerns that could be contributing to your teen's panic attacks could include:

  • Fluctuations in hormones. Hormones are all over the place during the teen years; that's no secret. Teens can feel anger, sadness, and anxiety for almost no reason. This isn't very clear to them as it is to those around them.
  • Pressure from peers. Peer pressure gets a lot of attention, but it doesn't always take the form of pressure to do drugs, drink alcohol, or become sexually active before they're ready.
  • High levels of stress. Teens can be under a significant amount of stress, much of which could stem from their need to get good grades and go to university while participating in sport, volunteering, and maintaining a social life.
  • Stress during testing. Even a teen who studies a topic inside and out may feel anxiety when taking tests.
  • Stress in the home. If there are problems in the home, whether problems between parents, siblings, or even financial concerns, your teen may be very sensitive to them.

Social anxiety, depression, and other mental wellness concerns could be contributing factors. Getting your teen professional help can empower them to identify what could be responsible for their panic attacks and help them learn how to cope better when they feel overwhelming anxiety leading to a panic attack.

Tip One: Getting the professional help they need

It's tempting to think that you can help your teen through panic attacks without getting outside help. Certainly, you will have a strong role in your teen's healing process, but the benefit of professional intervention cannot be denied.

There are a range of treatment options. Your teen may not respond to some treatment options, so it's important to work with professionals who can help them find the right solutions.

Some of the options to treat panic attacks in teens include:

  • Medications. The type of medication that works for your teen may be different from medications that work for you. This is why it's so important to work with a team of professionals to help your teen.
  • Group therapy. There are several reasons group therapy can be beneficial, particularly when under the guidance of a professional. Teens can get the social support they need and reinforce healthy coping strategies and behaviors.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy approach can help teens be aware of and learn to manage the thoughts they experience before a panic attack.

It can take a bit of trial and error to find the right combination of treatment to help your teen. However, with a team of professionals by your side, you'll have better odds of helping your teen in the way that works best for them.

Tip Two: Getting the school involved

If your teen is struggling with anxiety and panic attacks at school, you should consider getting school officials involved in the treatment for your teen. If there is a professional diagnosis and a treatment plan, the school may be able to offer several solutions to help your teen with the things he struggles with at school.

  • He may be able to get extra time to complete tests. Test-taking can make any of us feel anxious. For a teen already feeling the pressure, it can be a clear trigger to a panic attack.
  • The school may offer him the ability to take the tests in a more private setting. This can help a teen who is also struggling with social anxiety.
  • The school counselor can be made aware of what your teen is struggling with and can also routinely check-in and monitor his progress.

The more people involved in making this challenging situation easier for your teen, the better he will be prepared to tackle his anxiety and work through panic when it starts to consume him. The school may help establish a plan of action for him to have a safe space to go when he feels a panic attack.

Tip Three: Evaluating your home situation

Is there something about your home life that could be potentially causing additional anxiety for your teen?

If you and your parenting partner are constantly at odds with one another, you may need to address your relationship and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the family. It could be that you both need counseling. Or it could be that it's time to consider no longer living together as partners, for the benefit of everyone in the family.

Many parents do tend to stay together for the sake of the children in the home. The truth is that there are some situations where staying together is not helping anyone. Take careful stock of your home life and figure out if there is room for making things better for every member of the family.

Another part of considering your home situation should be to consider health and wellness improvements. It may seem trite to suggest that improving physical wellness and enjoying a healthy diet and lifestyle can cure anxiety and panic attacks. While they may not be a cure, there are definite mental wellness benefits to working towards a healthier lifestyle for the family as a whole.

  • Make sure everyone in the family is eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Going for family walks, bike rides, or hikes can be good for both the body and mind. Mainly because it allows everyone to disconnect from devices and distractions, so you can all reconnect with one another.
  • Planning family game nights or movie nights. Any opportunity to disconnect together is an opportunity for your family to reconnect with one another.

Tip Four: Working through panic attacks

If your teen is at school and starts to feel panic setting in, they will need to have the right coping skills on hand to help them through it. Our other tips will help to fortify them to learn some of the all-important coping skills that they will need.

There are several approaches to help with a panic attack if your teen is with you at home:

  • Stay with your teen and remain calm. If you do struggle with anxiety, it can be triggered by seeing someone else struggling.
  • If your teen has been prescribed medication to help with panic attacks, offer the medication if they typically take it before it during a panic attack.
  • Ask what they need from you. Sometimes your teen will want to hold your hand. Sometimes they may need something more.
  • Avoid being surprised or trying to make them laugh when they are in the midst of a panic attack. Rather stay predictable, calm, show them you are there and remind them that they are safe.
  • Work on your breathing with your teen. Slow breaths, in and out. In and hold for a count of five. Out for a count of five. Focusing on breathing can be a helpful and welcome distraction.
  • Remind them of mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present, feeling what you feel, and seeing what you see right at this moment—hearing, touching, and smelling, right at this moment. For someone in the middle of a panic attack, feeling the fear that can accompany panic, focusing on what is here and what is real can be incredibly helpful.
  • Stress straws are a great tool to have. There are plenty of options to be found and purchased online. They allow for focused breathing exercises. If your teen's therapist has recommended one, then he'll be in good shape as he learns how to use it. You can also find lots of videos online to offer guidance.

If a teen is struggling to keep up with schoolwork, chores at home, extracurricular activities, and sports, it can be a potential minefield of panic attack triggers for him. Sometimes getting him away from that school environment can make a world of difference. Homeschooling can be an excellent option for many teens who struggle with anxiety and panic disorders.

In some cases, removing them further from the environment in which they struggle most can prove beneficial. A residential treatment center will give him the safe, secure, and supportive environment he needs not just to recover but to refocus on his education. As much as you may not want to consider it, sometimes it takes a fresh start to help a struggling teen find his way back to stability and a life with fewer or no panic attacks.

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