When a teen struggles with anxiety, it can be a scary time for parents. You want to help your teen and ensure they get the proper support. The good news is that there are many ways you can help your child, from providing emotional support to assisting them in finding other resources that can improve their situation.
Here are some tips for helping your teen overcome an anxiety disorder:
Your teen may need your help sometimes, but they also need space to work through their feelings independently. If they're feeling anxious, there are ways you can show them that you care—and help them feel better in the long run.
Let your teen know that you are there for them when they need it most: listen attentively (not while looking at your phone when they are talking) and don't interrupt; ask questions about what's going on; validate what they say (e.g., "That sounds hard"; "You must be feeling frustrated/angry/sad"; etc.).
Encourage your child by telling them how proud you are of them for trying new things or being brave enough to talk about their problems openly with others (this will also show them what kind of person would make a good friend).
You can even model these behaviors by sharing something personal from your life—the more open communication between parents and children, the better.
If your teen is fixated on the details, help them see the big picture. If your teen lets past failures hold them back, encourage your child to think about what they can learn from those defeats and push forward. If your teen worries about their future, remember that many sources can provide helpful information about what to expect in college and beyond. And if your teen’s anxiety has gotten so bad that they can't even think about anything except what made them anxious in the first place, gently guide their attention away from those thoughts until they feel better able to cope with them later. One way to do this is by taking them out to do something fun so they are not cooped up in their room or scrolling on their phone, obsessing about what is making them anxious.
Planning when you'll offer support is essential to avoid overwhelming your teen with support. Setting aside time may be helpful. Also, ensure you have a support network of friends or family; a therapist can help them deal with current stressors.
Taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for the people in your life. So make sure you're getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising regularly. This is a great way to set an example of what it looks like to take care of yourself. In addition, children often mirror their parents, so keep this in mind as you move throughout your day.
Here are some examples of how to do this:
Sharing your own experiences with anxiety is a great way to help your teen understand that they are not alone. If you are comfortable doing so, talk openly about your struggles with anxiety. Your teen will likely be able to relate on some level, and it can be reassuring to know that their parent knows what they're going through. This is also an opportunity for you to learn more about how you might be able to help them better manage their anxiety symptoms.
Encourage your teen to develop healthy habits. Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and help you feel better. Something as simple as taking a nature walk is a great way to improve anxiety symptoms. A good sleep schedule is also essential. Unfortunately, studies show that many teens are not getting enough sleep—especially during the school year.
There are plenty of other ways to relax and destress—reading a book, listening to music, painting, or playing video games with friends. It may take trial and error, but finding what works for your teen will help them feel more comfortable in their skin.
If your teen is experiencing physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, or muscle tension, they should be evaluated by a doctor. The doctor will help determine whether these symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition that needs treatment.
In addition to medication and therapy, there are many other ways a person can address anxiety:
The first step to receiving help is knowing when you need it. Some signs that your teen may need professional intervention include:
If you notice these symptoms in your teen, talk with them about getting help from a therapist and make an appointment if they seem receptive. If your teen does not want help, be understanding; resources are available for parents who want information on how best to support their child through anxiety and depression.
When your child is experiencing anxiety, it can be helpful to have someone outside their friends and family circle to speak with to address any issues safely.
If you're not getting the support and help you need from your child's school or other parents, speak to someone else. A therapist or counselor may be able to provide the guidance and insight you seek.