The most common mental health concern that teenagers report is anxiety. It is said that as many as 1 in 3 teenagers have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Anxiety in teens has been on the rise in recent years.
What can you do as a parent to help your teen with anxiety?
Hear what your teen is saying without judgment. As hard as it may be to hear what your teen is sharing, wait for your teen to ask for feedback before offering solutions
2. Have a routine
Have a structure for your teenager. Eat dinner as a family consistently on certain nights of the week. Have a routine time during the week when all electronics are turned off for the evening and have a consistent bedtime or time when your child winds down for the evening
3. Schedule electronics
Your teen will want to have their phone to connect with friends and the outside world. Set a time when your teenager hands in their phone and other electronics for the evening. Help your teen find ways to wind and calm down without needing their devices.
Schedule exercise for your teen. This may be as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride. They may enjoy skateboarding, shooting baskets or any other movement-based activity
5. Pay attention to social media
Talk to your teen about their experience on their social media apps. What is popular? How do people present on social media? Do they feel anxiety about not having as much fun or looking like others on the apps? The introduction of filters has changed the number of images your teen is exposed to and has increased the pressure around our culture’s beauty standard, causing greater stress for young people
6. Don’t solve your teen’s problems
Help your teen think about their own problem and come up with their own solution. Discuss possible options and the outcome of each option, and allow your teen to make mistakes and grow. Reflect together without judgment. Recent research shows that when parents plow away all obstacles for their children, it increases their child’s anxiety and decreases resiliency in adulthood
Help your teen know how they can calm down their bodies in anxiety-producing moments through deep breathing and mindfulness exercises
8. Have a code word
For your teen, have a code word or phrase they can text you that lets you know they need your help. For example, let us say your teen finds themselves in a situation where the group starts to drink, and they do not want to stay, but they don’t want to lose face, your teen can text you a statement. They may simply text ‘ice cream.’ When you get this statement, you know it means to text them and let them know you are coming to get them because of your need. This way, your teen can blame you for needing to go home
9. Be around
When your teen starts to share with you, drop what you are doing and pay attention. You may find your teen doesn’t talk to you for days, and then they start to share about something out of nowhere. If you can pause what you are doing and pay attention, they may have a lot to share. Something might seem little to you, but it could be big for your teen. If you ask them to wait, it may be a while before they share again.
With your teen, know you may be unable to fix everything they are going through. Accept this fact. Be present, and listen without judgment. How can you show up for your teen even if you disagree with their choices?
Our teens live in an increasingly complex world, facing situations and experiences we did not face when we were teens. Providing a safe, loving, and non-judgemental place for your child to share their fears and worries will help.
This does not mean not having boundaries and letting any behavior happen. If your child is expressing concerning behaviors, check out our emotional regulation course we have put together to allow you to help your teen.