Seeing your teenager anxious or in emotional pain can make any parent feel helpless. You may not know the best course of action or whether to intervene at all. However, early intervention with anxiety can help dramatically decrease anxiety symptoms and help your teenager feel less isolated and overwhelmed. Being a teenager is rough, but there are ways to help them feel better. Here is what you should do.
Discovering the root of your teenager’s anxiety will help you know the best way to proceed. Not all anxiety is the same and can range from generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress. Each version of anxiety disorder may require a different approach, and letting your teenager speak with you about what is bothering them will help you narrow the type of anxiety down.
Validate Their Feelings
Although the anxiety your teenager is experiencing may not seem real to you, it is real to them. Allowing your teenager to talk through concerns without your judgment will allow honest communication. Don’t offer advice quickly. Listen until your teenager has addressed all their worries and let them know that their feelings are okay. Validating your teenager’s feelings will help prevent the shame that often comes with anxiety, and will give you the opportunity to encourage them to face their fears.
Downplay Societal & Educational Expectations
Academic performance, complex high school social structures, the search for self-identity, and high competition for college admission can be overwhelming for any person. Oftentimes, teenagers do not have the experience to juggle high stress situations. Emphasize that these current stresses are temporary, and the passage of time will ease their concerns. They do not need to be the best to be happy.
Seek Professional Help
Despite your best efforts, professional intervention may be required if your teenager is trying to alleviate their anxiety in a destructive way. Alcohol, drugs, truancy, or uncharacteristically defiant behavior are all signs of a teenager trying to self-soothe. Professional resources, like Lifeline, can help get your teenager back on track and give them the tools needed to combat their anxiety in a healthy way.
Being a teenager is a stressful and often emotional time in a young person’s life, and their anxiety may make them feel isolated and powerless. Patience and an open ear can not only strengthen the bond between you and your child but also allows them to therapeutically talk through their feelings.