When Friday rolls around, most educators experience the “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” feeling.
For some students, however, Friday can bring anxiety and feelings of dread.
Friday could mean a weekend where . . .
- Food is scarce
- Physical or emotional abuse by family members occurs with no one to tell until Monday
- A family member’s drug or alcohol use makes things tense
- Violence in the community makes it unsafe to go outside
- A family member is ill and must be cared for by the child
- It is difficult to visit a sibling or parent in jail
- A parent or family member is missed because they are in the military
During the week, school can be a safe haven where kids receive one or more meals and have people who listen. For weekends and extended breaks, it can be difficult for children to cope with stressors at home and in the community. If you notice students who have a difficult time on Fridays or Mondays, you may want to check in with them to see how things are going outside of school.
Some red flags that students may be experiencing difficulty outside of school on the weekends include:
- Unexplained emotional outbursts
- Visible bruises or complaints of pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decline in school performance
- Aggression toward other students or adults
- Stealing food or other items
All states have reporting laws that mandate who must report suspected child abuse and neglect. Teachers and other educators can make a referral to the school counselor so that students can get the help they need.
You can have a big impact on the life of kids just by letting them know you are there for them if they want to talk.
How do you help students who experience Fearful Fridays?
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Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Julie Nelson and illustrated by Mary Gallagher
The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens About Overcoming Tough Times edited by Al Desetta, M.A., and Sybil Wolin, Ph.D.
I really appreciate this blog because it is truly a huge event in some students lives. I deal with this every Friday with a student. Sometimes the anxiety is so bad Fearful Fridays start on Thursdays. There is nothing specific that happens to set off this anxiety except it is a changing of households from one parent to another and the different dynamics of each household. In order to help this student, we discuss the plans for the weekend so the student knows ahead of time what to expect (as much as possible). We also discuss ways to relax if they start feeling anxious or stressed (i.e. reading a book, listening to IPod, taking a nap, drawing, etc.) as well as familiar items that can be brought back and forth between the households. We need to recognize that these children are truly anxious and have limited resources available to them. I try to help them find ways within these limits to have some control over their anxieties and fears. Every Friday this student leaves with a list of possible activities to help deal with their fears and a plan of action to take in case it gets too bad to handle on their own.
This is very informative and eye-opening. I never would’ve thought of Fridays in this way. I used to work at a daycare, and knew how important we were to the kids, but didn’t know to what extent.