We all experience anxiety sometimes, but when your child is the one who is stressed, it’s easy for parents to feel helpless. Here is some expert-approved advice on how to help your teen through anxious times.
Adolescents and anxiety. During the teenage years, the human brain undergoes a number of changes. Some experts feel that because of this period of growth, it’s especially important to establish good behavior patterns. You can set your child up for a successful adulthood by laying the groundwork now.
Coping skills. Parenting teens through anxiety is a challenge. According to Psychology Today, 10 to 20 percent of kids in school experience anxiety symptoms. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help your child cope.
- Facing fears. Not dealing with whatever your child is afraid of extends the anxiety. Encourage your teen to face his or her concerns.
- Let go of perfection. Having goals and trying to achieve them is important, but your child needs to know that it’s okay to be imperfect.
- Stay positive. Your teen may be focusing on worries and negatives. Steer the perspective in a positive direction.
- Model appropriate behavior. Your child learns by watching you. If you avoid activities that make you anxious, your teen will as well. Similarly, be positive about your own experiences and model self-care.
- Plan relaxation. Even activities like clubs and sports can become goal-oriented. Ensure your child has downtime focused on fun.
- Problem solving. Help your child evaluate his or her worries and look for solutions. If your kid is unable to think of possible solutions, make suggestions and allow the child to select the one he or she feels is best.
- Remain calm. When something is upsetting to you, focus on good coping skills. Remain calm, take some deep breaths, and speak deliberately. Remember, your child is watching you and will model your behavior.
- Relax together. Teach your teen some basic relaxation exercises, and practice them together. Use techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
- Model perseverance. Your teen may have routinely anxious times. Continue to reinforce appropriate behavior and exercises.
Be in the moment. Sometimes, your own emotions can tangle your responses and it can help to have a tool in your toolbox. Some professionals recommend using the word FEEL when you are helping your child through an anxious moment:
Freeze. Stop and take some deep breaths to settle nervousness.
Empathize. Make sure your teen knows you understand.
Evaluate. Find solutions.
Let go. Release your own guilt; you’re giving your teen great tools to manage anxiety.
Changes and moves. Moving and changing schools are some of the biggest stressors for kids. Your child may be experiencing substantial anxiety if your family is relocating or your child is entering a new school, but there are things you can do to ease the transition.
- Tell your child right away when you decide to move. Be positive, and address any concerns they have.
- Accept their emotions. Be understanding of all emotions your child is feeling, whether positive or negative.
- Let your child be involved on the day of the move. This will make them feel needed. It’s also important for them to see the house empty so they can get closure.
Warning signs. Watch for warning signs that your child is experiencing excessive anxiety, such as being continually stressed, nervous, or restless. Reach out to a professional if you think your teen’s anxiety is becoming unmanageable.
Set your teen up for success. Parenting your child through the adolescent years can be tough, especially when your teen experiences anxiety. However, you can help your child learn coping skills and be better prepared when troubles arise. By using the guidelines outlined here, you can assist your adolescent through anxiety.