The teen years can be challenging for any family, but for those kids who are struggling with anxiety disorders, things can be quite rough for both the kids and the parents involved. It can be challenging for parents to support their struggling kids during these difficult times in a balanced, helpful way, but there are some strategies and techniques that can be quite useful in these scenarios.
Teen anxiety can escalate to impact many areas of an adolescent’s life
Teens often face anxiety on multiple fronts as they grow up, having to deal with family, school, and peer relationships during a time where they want to be independent, but do not necessarily have the skills they need to fully handle things on their own. Parents want to help their struggling kids, but sometimes their way of helping adds to the anxiety or comes off as nagging. While some teen anxiety is normal, it can become unhealthy and there are ways for parents to help without rocking the boat.
As the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry details, teen anxiety can escalate to the point where it interferes with academic performance, extracurriculars, peer relationships, and family dynamics. While the signs of anxiety vary from child to child, many will become withdrawn, overly emotional, and perhaps even experience headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or other physical symptoms as things progress to a point where they need some extra help.
Parents can support their adolescent by listening and reassure them they’re being heard
When you notice your adolescent experiencing high anxiety, try to talk with them about their concerns. Be sure to listen patiently and respectfully without dismissing what they are feeling. Oftentimes, pinpointing what is triggering the anxiety can go a long way toward diffusing it. Try to reassure your child that they can handle these issues and sometimes it helps to point toward other similar concerns they’ve had that were successfully resolved.
Psychology Today recommends that parents help their kids face their fears rather than try to avoid them, as this will often help the anxiety lessen over time. Point out the positives and remind adolescents that they do not have to be perfect, and make sure that you model self-care and positive thinking for them.
It is important to reassure anxious kids that they can express themselves and be heard, and experts note that parents need to remain calm as they help their child navigate their concerns. Learning some relaxation techniques can have a big impact, and this may include tactics such as slow, deep breathing and visualization.
Relaxation techniques and professional help can help teens navigate their anxiety
A report from ABC News notes that the best relaxation techniques for adolescents will focus on ways that they can feel in control over what is agitating them. Progressive muscle relaxation can be useful, where teens tense up muscle groups for a few seconds and then relax them, and mindfulness-based stress reduction helps teens lock in on the present moment. This can help teens to let go of broader, more abstract concerns so they can feel more in control.
Psych Central suggests that If a teen’s anxiety continues and becomes overwhelming, or if they are demonstrating significant, sudden behavioral changes, it may be helpful to reach out to a professional. Sometimes just a few therapy sessions can provide some much-needed perspective or some relaxation tools that an adolescent can embrace, and sometimes hearing all of this from an unbiased source rather than a parent can be quite useful.
Adolescent anxiety impacts many households in today’s society as pressures at school and with peers create significant worries. When a teen’s worries escalate to the point where their school work, peer relationships, or temperament changes, it is time to work on resolving the worries. Parental support and relaxation techniques can be beneficial in resolving issues with anxiety and reaching out to a mental health professional for guidance may be useful in helping teens work through their anxiety issues as well.
Noah Smith grew up with anxiety that has hindered him from maximizing his potentials. Now that he has learned to overcome them, he aims to help parents and children to walk through facing anxiety victoriously.