How Do I Help My Anxious Teen?
Updated: Jan 11
Anxiety is increasingly common for children and adolescents. Unfortunately, it's a scarier world with social media, the coronavirus, climate disasters, and all sorts of other issues plaguing our society. Your teenager might be keenly aware and feel helpless and frightened about what to do about all this. Thankfully, if you ask yourself "how can I help my anxious teen," I have some suggestions below for you.
Some Things Help and Some Things Hurt When Your Teen Has Anxiety
For parents of teens with anxiety, here are some do's and don'ts:
Do show compassion for the young person. They are basically trapped in a prison of their own making. They develop associations to everyday tasks and experiences that you and I take for granted as being easy. We don't know what it's like for that person, so...
Don't judge, insult, or belittle the teen. This just makes their situation worse. They often already feel weird, different or defective. No sense adding fuel to their already roaring fire of self-consciousness.
Do model rational responses to stress. If something is making you fearful or anxious, you can let them know how you cope with it effectively. This is more powerful than what I can do because I only see kids once a week usually. You're with them all the time. You have way more impact than I do.
Don't put adult problems on young shoulders. If you're having marital problems, substance abuse issues, or other things that cause you to stress, don't confide in your kids as if they were adults. They can't handle it and they should not have to. Find appropriate people in whom to confide like friends, spiritual leaders, adult family members, or professionals.
Do help them put their fears into perspective in a respectful way. Ask them when they have experienced the thing that they fear, and how they handled it back then. Offer them help in how to handle it differently without shaming them for what they did back then. Help them think about how likely it is that the feared thing will happen.
Do help your teen establish safe relationships with other adults they can turn to when they have a problem or issue with you. Yes, it's important to talk to your teen about what's bothering them, but sometimes they hear advice better from other adults. Sports coaches, teachers, mentors, and other adults can be a valuable resource for adolescents seeking guidance.
Shifting Perspectives Can Help Your Teen With Anxiety
A lot of times anxious people think of the worst possible circumstance and think that this is the only possible outcome. Help them shift their thinking so they can become critical thinkers of their own thought processes.
Don't allow them to get out of necessary life functions because of their anxiety. This just creates more avoidance, and they never learn how to deal with their fear. Once they start avoiding, it becomes a vicious cycle: they believe they can’t, their life skills get rusty, and then before they know it they are less able to function than before, “proving” that they “can’t.”
If they are missing school or avoiding friends because of their anxiety, get them some professional help so that they can rejoin life comfortably and confidently.
I hope this helps.
If know a family with an anxious child or adolescent, please have them call me at 661-233-6771 or email me at email@example.com.