Does your teen have anxiety, and you’re not sure how to help? You’ve come to the right place! Today we’re sharing 8 tips for parents who have teens struggling with anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in so many ways. Do any of the following sound familiar?
Symptoms of Anxiety
Your teen may experience sleep/eating issues, they might avoid certain situations, isolate from friends, worry about how others think of them, or have trouble concentrating. Maybe your teen fidgets a lot or seems on edge, they may need to be self-assured a lot, or they zone out sometimes. Perhaps they are worried about their performance in school and get consumed by this idea of perfectionism.
Anxiety can be physical too. Does your teen complain about headaches? Nausea? Weight loss or weight gain? This could be anxiety!
Panic attacks can also be a sign of anxiety. They can be really scary if you don’t know what’s going on- which is often the case. Panic attacks look different for everyone; someone might experience uncontrollable crying, while others might completely zone out and feel disconnected from their body. Some might hyperventilate, start sweating, and feel like their heart is about to jump out of their chest. This might be a panic attack due to their anxiety or a trigger, or, if they are having panic attacks frequently, they may be struggling with panic disorder.
Types of Anxiety
There are different kinds of anxiety out there: separation anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias. Sometimes anxiety disorders are brought on by a medication or medical issue. Sometimes it causes people to stop talking or feel afraid to leave their home.
If you think that your teen might have anxiety, you’re in luck! It’s treatable, and there are some things that YOU can do with your kiddo that can help them manage anxiety.
Like many mental health issues, anxiety doesn’t just go away, but there are many ways to help manage it. Here are some things NOT TO DO, and some things that you CAN DO.
Teens Struggling With Anxiety – 3 Things NOT TO DO
1. Don’t tell them to not worry.
If they could just “not worry,” they would! Telling them to stop feeling something that’s out of their control may minimize what they’re experiencing. They might also think that you don’t take this seriously and feel discouraged to confide in you about these things. If you’ve done this before, don’t beat yourself up for it, just know that in the future, telling someone to “not worry about it” could cause more harm than good. We’ve all done it though, so don’t be hard on yourself.
2. Don’t try to fix the issue.
This will serve as a band-aid, and your teenager will rely on you to make things better every time they feel anxious. I get it- it’s a great feeling to solve the problem and to be the person who makes your kid experience the relief that you want so badly for them. However, later on in life, they may not be able to regulate their anxiety and big emotions; you want them to be able to sit with discomfort, calm themselves down, and find wants to move forward. They won’t learn this if you keep fixing things for them!
3. Try to not have a huge reaction.
Maybe you have anxiety yourself, however, responding in a big way may make their anxiety worse, or it may make your teen feel bad for worrying you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I don’t want to tell my parents because they have enough on their plate, I don’t want to be one more thing that they worry about”. Try to respond in a cool and calm way, without judgment.
Teens Struggling With Anxiety – 5 Things To Do
1. Learn how to regulate your own anxieties if you haven’t yet.
This might mean learning how to do deep belly breathing, coming up with a meaningful mantra, or reframing your negative thoughts to ones that are not so catastrophic.
If you know how to practice deep breathing, this is something that you can do with your teen to help them calm down. There are many ways to practice breathing- just google “Breathing Exercises” and you’ll be surprised with how many you can find. There are also different Apps that you can download on your phone, I like “iBreathe” because there’s a helpful visual you can focus on while you work on your breath.
2. You can ask your teen what has helped them calm down in the past.
This way they can access the strengths they may have forgotten about, and you can help them create a Care Kit for them to use when they are feeling anxious. That could include a coloring book and crayons, a list of songs or videos they can look up, or maybe it’s a specific lotion they can use and smell that brings them comfort.
3. Going for a walk is always calming.
It encourages “bilateral stimulation,” which is a fancy term that means both sides of your brain are working together again. When we become emotionally dis-regulated, the right and left side of our brain stop communicating. Going on a walk allows you to engage both sides of your body, which activates both sides of your brain. The left and right hemispheres start working together again and should bring on a state of calm. If walking isn’t an option, try doing some light tapping with your right and left hands or feet. Try deep breathing and focus by saying, “left, right, left, right”. Give it a try!
4. Remind them that anxiety and panic attacks always get better, even if that doesn’t seem possible.
Some say it can be helpful to describe it as “riding a wave,” the anxiety may rise up in your body like a wave, but it always settles down and recedes back into the ocean. Once they understand anxiety in this way, they can reassure themselves that the wave always has an end point, they just have to wait and ride it out, and to just let it do its thing.
5. Lastly, you can always explore therapy and/or medication.
Research has found, time and time again, that the best outcomes for those seeking mental health treatment are those who engage in both therapy and medication. There’s seriously no shame in exploring both. You’d be surprised by how many people do!
We’re Here To Help Your Teens Struggling With Anxiety
You aren’t alone!
As always, we have girl experts on hand who can help you navigate these scary times! You can self-schedule a session with us now by clicking here. We’ve got you!
This article was contributed by Empowered Connection’s Art Therapist, Kelly Muldoon, LCPAT, LCPC, ATR-BC. She knows that every person has the potential to be their best selves, to discover the strengths they didn’t realize they had, and to understand themselves on a deeper level. Sometimes we just need someone to help guide us there! She also knows that some experiences, emotions, and thoughts cannot be communicated, understood, or processed verbally, which is why she loves using her expertise in Art Therapy as an alternative and complementary approach to talk therapy.Kelly is currently seeing adult women & girls starting at age 8 in person and virtually in the state of Maryland. Learn more about her here.