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Psychologist visits Salisbury Academy to discuss ways of coping with childhood anxiety

SALISBURY – According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood anxiety and depression are on the rise, with an estimated 7.1% of children from ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with anxiety.

Michele Mannering is a clinical psychologist based Charlotte that runs Myers Park Pediatric Psychologist and is a veteran speaker about child mental health development. Mannering visited Salisbury Academy on Thursday evening to speak to local parents about anxiety in children.

The event was open to the public and covered early signs in children when a typical and healthy amount of worry in a child has become a more serious issue.

Mannering discussed ways childhood anxiety might be masked by other behaviors. Young children may act out due to anxiety because they are unable to process those emotions well, older children may underperform in school because of the emotional toll of investing themselves heavily in work that may not be graded well. Anxiety does not always look like fear or stress the way adults understand it.

Kids also face more stress than ever before, she said. There is a concept of an imaginary audience applying pressure to kids to perform in school, athletics, socially and so on, but Mannering pointed out technology and social media makes that audience more real than it has ever been.

“It is a different world even than it was 10 years ago,” Mannering said. “Kids are exposed to a lot more. It’s getting harder and harder to shield them, even though you don’t want to totally shield them.”

Mannering also pointed to the importance of letting kids fail  when needed so they can be equipped for a time in their lives when there are no longer safety nets.

If parents think their child could have an anxiety issue, Mannering said, the best place to start is with a pediatrician.

“The pediatricians are well-connected to other clinicians in the area, so I think that they are a good sounding board and can provide you the resources of what’s available and where you might want to go,” Mannering said.

Head of School Beverly Fowler said the talk was coordinated through professional partnerships that help with professional development of teachers.

“A lot of it’s word of mouth,” Fowler said.”You meet one and they refer you to another. I met her through an occupational therapist that we work with at our school.”

Fowler said she hopes the talks at the school are helpful to the community as a whole — not just the students and parents at Salisbury Academy.

“We regularly have experts in to have these conversations, and then I think being mindful as a school too of our role in creating healthy learning environments,” Fowler said.

Salisbury Academy teachers go through ongoing social and emotional training as part of professional development.

“It’s critical,” Fowler said.

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