A high need in my school is support for students with anxiety, unfortunately even as young as first grade. Research has shown the sooner children with anxiety begin to learn tools to self regulate the better. Research continues to indicate that Cognitive Behavioral approaches and Mindfulness are effective in reducing anxiety. Using children's literature to teach strategies and normalize the fact that many children have anxiety in the primary grades is also effective. I have developed an Emotion Management group curriculum for grades 1-5. Many of the same skills are taught at each level but with increased complexity. I think it is critical that the focus be on skill development and that parents and teachers know what skills are taught in group. Before each group I put together a packet for the 8 sessions. Each handout has the image of the book we shared and a simple explanation of the skill and activity. It really helps students see that the group is structured and how far along they are each session. If group gets cancelled one week for a special activity or schedule change, they know we will keep meeting until we complete the 8 sessions. I communicate with parents at least 3 times during a group (beginning, middle, and end). Parents give very positive feedback about the packet of work coming home at the end and being able to reinforce the skills taught in group.
My goal is to serve as many students as possible and avoid a large number of students being referred for individual counseling. Most children like the group and support one another; however, there are some children with social anxiety that can't yet speak in a group so I may see them individually one year with the hope of them doing a group at the next grade level. I always collect perception data for these groups with a simple pre-post survey. I do NOT send these home rather I use them to evaluate the effectiveness of the groups and what needs to be revised.