The stress, pressure, and emotional turmoil in a teenager’s life can trigger anxiety. While occasional test-day nerves or concerns about the future are normal and healthy, if your child is chronically worried, avoids activities, appears unable to cope with obstacles, or is struggling with physical symptoms like stomachaches, they may have a disorder. While this is concerning, there are steps you can take as a parent to help them overcome these hurdles and promote well-being. Use the tips below to show your support and help your teen through this challenging time.
How to Help Your Teen Manage Their Anxiety
1. Be Supportive & Listen
The best general advice is to be kind, patient, positive, and understanding. Ask them about their experience with the condition, such as what symptoms they deal with, what sparks it, and how it feels. Foster open, honest communication and listen to their answers without judgment.
2. Seek Outside Support
If your teen is struggling, talk to them about mental health options in your area. Decide together what they’re comfortable with and what will target their specific concerns. Peer support groups, counseling, and family support programs will all help your child learn strategies to improve their daily life. In fact, family support programs improve the mental health of both the child and the parents, offering benefits to all of you.
3. Help Them Set Small Goals
Avoidance of triggers is a common symptom of anxiety disorders. If your child fears interaction with strangers, for instance, they may skip parties or school activities that require public speaking. Being completely risk-averse may limit your teen’s experiences and opportunities.
Encourage your teen to overcome these obstacles with controlled, gradual exposure therapy. With time and repetition, they’ll become desensitized to the trigger, or at least learn techniques to manage their response. Recommend that your child set small, low-stakes goals, like saying hello to someone they’ve never met before. Make it easy for them to do so by providing them opportunities and letting them make progress on their own terms. If they’re worried about the response of their peers at school, for instance, offer to take them to a recreational activity like yoga or a skate park where they may feel more comfortable at first. Support their attempts, even if they don’t succeed. While it may be frustrating if they bristle at your suggestions, avoid pressuring them, as this could exacerbate the problem.
If your teenager is struggling with anxiety and needs compassionate and effective support, contact the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County in Rochester, NY. This nonprofit organization offers services that help individuals manage their mental health. For 85 years, they’ve served Monroe County with programs such as life skills classes and free yoga classes. Learn about their current youth offerings online, and call (585) 325-3145 to sign your teen up for a program.