Teen Anxiety: What Can Parents Do?
By Jolee Hadaller
One of the hardest things to do in life is be a parent. When you first have a child, taking care of them is pretty much a full time job. You lose a lot of sleep and stress about all of the “what ifs” that can happen. As they grow up, they get a little easier. You do not have to help them eat, or go to the bathroom. But what happens when they are all of the sudden a teenager? Having a child in their teenage years can be extremely difficult. This is the time when they need their parents most, but usually they do not want to reach out for help.
As kids get into their teenage years, anxiety can start to become a big part of their lives. Learning how to manage it at a young age can benefit the rest of your child’s life.
To start our dive into teen anxiety, let’s first describe what exactly anxiety disorder is. According to national studies, one in three teens have an anxiety disorder. Although everyone experiences anxiety, teens with anxiety disorder have very excessive worrying and fears, especially in settings that have nothing to be feared. Anxiety disorder can cause teens to constantly feel an inner restlessness and feel extremely nervous and stressed at all times. One of the biggest things to remember when trying to help your child with their anxiety, is what not to say. There are many things that parents say that can instantly shut their child down and make them feel like never talking again.
When someone is extremely stressed about something, many people instantly say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” One thing people don’t realize is when you have an anxiety disorder, even the small stuff feels huge, and they can’t help it. Another phrase to avoid is “calm down.” If people with an anxiety disorder could just calm down, they would never have anxiety. Even if it is easy for you to calm down, it may not be the same case for your teen. Anxiety disorder is very difficult, especially for teens. They often have a fear of being judged. This causes them to literally have anxiety, about their anxiety. The biggest thing to remember when you have a teen with an anxiety disorder is to be patient, listen to what they have to say, and take everything they are feeling seriously. Do not compare your own situations to theirs, because oftentimes it will only make them feel worse. For more information on the dos and don’ts of anxiety disorders in teens, visit this link.
The biggest thing to remember when you have a teen with an anxiety disorder is to be patient, listen to what they have to say, and take everything they are feeling seriously.
Not all kids that deal with anxiety have an anxiety disorder. Teens often get anxiety during school, sports, and stressful social situations. Less extreme anxiety is a bit easier to help your child with. A good start is just openly having a conversation with them. Let them vent. While they are venting, don’t try to solve anything. This is a time to validate their feelings, not try to solve them. After talking, wait until they are ready to try to figure out some solutions. If they do not want solutions at that time, don’t force any on them. Just continue to let them vent to you while listening patiently. Sometimes, all someone needs is to just let it all out and talk about their feelings. If they are ready for solutions, there are a few ways you can go about helping them. First of all, there are many great coping mechanisms to help with anxiety. Trying these first would be a great place to start. Another great idea is using technology. There are many apps out there that are specifically made to help reduce anxiety and stress. Some apps focus on breathing, while others focus on small, calming exercises. For more information on today’s great apps that help anxiety, visit this site.
Now that we have talked about when to offer coping mechanisms, what are some of the best ones? Breathing is a very simple thing. However, when anxiety is taking over, breathing can get harder to control. Taking a few minutes to focus on slow, controlled breaths can actually help calm your teen down and release some stress. Helping your teen learn how to talk themselves through their anxiety can also help a lot. Positive thinking is hard to do for many teens, but it is a great skill. Learning how to control your thoughts and replace the bad ones with collected, positive thoughts can help reduce anxiety immensely.
Kayston Purdy is a peer of mine. Throughout his life, he has dealt with a very large amount of stress and anxiety. He has experienced what it is like when an adult either does not know how to help, or does help, but in the wrong way. When Kayston was asked what help he has had from a parent, he said he never really received help because when he did try to talk to his parents, they did not have a welcoming conversation, and he felt very shut down. Kayston said, “If I could redo that first conversation, I would try to explain to them that how they were talking made me feel very small and like my problems were not real.”
Kayston is just one of many kids that have had this type of experience. When helping your child with anxiety, the biggest thing to remember is to be compassionate and open with them. Never judge, and never compare your situation to theirs.
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