Anxiety is hard, and watching your teen struggle with emotional, social, and physical changes due to anxiety is heartbreaking. Read more about these 8 ways to help your teen with anxiety…
Through the years, we’ve tried everything from worry stones, imagery, prayer, and counseling. Some of these have worked, others haven’t. No matter how bad it was or what current treatment we were trying, there have always been a few things I provide at home that seems to quiet the voices of anxiety for my teen.
Here are a few things you can try to help lessen anxiety…
Give It A Name
Be sure to let your child know that you see the anxiety separate from who they are as a person. Anxiety is merely a part of them but doesn’t define them entirely. Let them know that it is a manageable condition.
Acknowledge The Feelings
Don’t say things like, “There’s nothing to worry about.”
While it may be true, it can feel condescending and offers zero reassurance to someone dealing with anxiety. Even if you don’t understand the feelings, acknowledge that the feelings your child is experiencing are real and bothersome.
Offer Support For The Emotions
Anxiety doesn’t have many benefits, so finding even a small silver lining can help your teen feel better. Teach them that our brains use worrying to alert our bodies that we may be in danger. Unfortunately, some of us have more worry that we need.
Open Up The Lines Of Communication
From a young age, I let all my kids know that open communication is what I wanted from them the most. For my teen with anxiety, this is even more important.
Feelings of worry, sadness, or anxiety can shut down the lines of communication in a hurry. Of course, the teenage brain is a complicated place, without the worry and fear.
Be sure to let your kids know that they really can tell you anything, even if it is a worry or thought you might not want to hear. This helps to keep the lines of communication open.
If they confide something to you that you are not happy about, don’t talk about it in the moment. Let them know you may want to talk about this issue again, but just let it lie for a bit. This helps them to see that your words can be trusted and they can tell you anything without you blowing up. There can always be consequences, but yelling won’t help the symptoms of anxiety.
Know You Can’t Fix Everything
As much as we want to fix everything for our kids, feelings of anxiety can’t always be fixed. And, you can’t keep them from everything that causes their anxiety to flare up.
I remember dragging a screaming second grader into the school to allow the teacher to peel him off of me every day for months. There were days that all I wanted to do was keep him home and cuddle with him. But, I knew that protecting him in this way wouldn’t benefit anyone involved.
Prepare For Everything (Well, Most Everything)
Long gone are the days that you can make plans alone. If something is coming up that you know will trigger anxiety, talk about it and make a plan with your teen.
If overnight trips trigger feelings of anxiety and one is coming up, talk to your teen first. Ask them if they would like you to speak to the teacher or if they are ready to handle these conversations on their own. Empower them to start taking control of the fears and anxiety. Remind them that 40 million adults suffer from anxiety, so their teacher may understand more than they realize.
Practice & Teach Self-Care
The best way to get your kids to practice self-care is to be a good role-model. Let them see you take time for a yoga class, meditation, or just some much-needed downtime. If they are open to it, invite them to your class with you so that they can see that others know the importance of self-care too.
Sometimes, counseling is needed. Let your teen know that all they have to do is say the word and you will make the appointment. Sometimes they need to talk to someone other than you and, that is okay. Respect their privacy.
Watching your teen struggle with anxiety is no fun. Try these eight ways to help them and be sure to take care of yourself too. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Post submitted by: Melissa Mills, RN, BSN, CCM, MHA