How to Help When Your Teen Faces Anxiety
By Sandy Schroeder
From a distance, the teenage years can seem simple, but up close it's a different matter. If you have a teenager, you know one day is great, the next is a disaster. Social connections, plans for college, pressure for test scores and day-to-day approval from peers can be a heavy load.
Kids exhibit anxiety in different ways. Some become very quiet, others crash around. It can also show up as shortness of breath with feelings of panic as one worry cycle feeds into another.
If you are seeing signs of anxiety in your teen, don’t assume it will all settle down. Here are some simple steps from theparentcue.org that may help.
Make time to talk – You may collide regularly with your teen over all sorts of issues, but they still need you to be there listening and reaching out. Wherever you can, over dinner, later in the evening, on the way to a game, talk with them and really listen to what they say, or ask. If you are lucky, you will find out what is worrying them the most and you can help them deal with it.
Help them take phone breaks – If your teens lives on their phones, they may be losing sleep and growing more disconnected from everything else. You know your teen best. Do what is needed to dial the phone connections back at dinnertime, bedtime and on weekends. Head outside with them to shoot hoops, go biking, or just go for ice cream. Encouraging them to take self-imposed breaks can be an eye-opener for them and you.
Share a little history – Believe it or not, you were a teen once and some of your experiences might be worth sharing. Keep it light and funny, and relevant. Your teen may see you in a totally new light if they find out you also botched up a really important relationship, or missed out on something you really wanted. Look back at things your parents might have shared and how it helped you.
Try for overall views – Helping your teen step back a minute from their immediate concerns can lower their stress. Remind them of past struggles in classes or sports that seemed monumental, and then just leveled out. Also assure them they are always valued for who they are. Encourage them to have confidence and stay focused as they meet their challenges one-by-one, day-by-day. Stay in touch with other teachers, coaches and friends that they respect to get many views of your teen’s struggles. Different views can help you be more effective.
As always, if anxiety persists, you may want to see their doctor and consider seeing a psychologist to work through the issues.
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