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5 Ways to Help Your Teen Navigate Anxiety

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Navigate Anxiety

photo of a group of teenaged boys sitting on the beach in hoodies with looking at the ocean

The teenage years can be challenging. In between childhood and adulthood, many teens can feel stuck with no clear focus of who they are or who they could be.

The teen years are full of hope, disappointment, stress, and drama. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions sprinkled throughout a bumpy and shaky ride. As adults, it’s common to forget about your time as a teenager, though you do remember the big things. What’s hard to remember, especially, is the struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal part of life, but for teenagers, it can be especially tricky to navigate. With changing hormones, friendships, academics, and navigating romantic relationships for the first time it’s not uncommon for the teen years to be filled with anxiety. Here are 5 ways to help your teen navigate anxiety.

How to Help Your Teen With Their Anxiety

1. Be a role model.

Your teen is watching you closely, whether you realize it or not. Sure, they might be aloof and distant at times, but they see how you handle stress and anxiety in your life. They pick up on more than you realize. 

If you are struggling with anxiety or feel stressed, don’t be afraid to open up about this to your teen in an age-appropriate way. Perhaps you had a presentation at work that you have been worried about and were struggling with anticipatory anxiety and negative thinking. Show them it’s okay to be vulnerable and talk about their feelings. Discuss ways that you have effectively coped and worked through anxiety. Teens utilize their parents as models for emotion regulation and coping. It is important that we are demonstrating to teens that anxiety is manageable with the use of healthy coping skills and communication tools.

2. Don’t minimize their experience.

Adults can be unintentionally condescending when they talk to teenagers. When you are experiencing so much stress as an adult, it is common to look at what your teenager is going through and think or say, “So what? It can’t be that bad.” However, this minimizes their experience and invalidates their feelings.

photo of a group of teenaged boys sitting on the beach in hoodies with looking at the oceanJust because you don’t understand it, or it seems trivial doesn’t make it any less real to them. If they are feeling anxious about something, don’t make them feel as if they are being silly or blowing things out of proportion. Instead, listen to them without judging, validate their emotions, and offer to help them problem solve to manage the situation in a healthy way if they are looking for feedback. This will help them feel seen and heard by you. In their teenage mind, that can go a long way.

3. Promote active coping.

It is important for children to learn throughout their teenage years that in the presence of situational triggers of anxiety, frustration, and stress that they have the tools to cope. 

When teens work through a difficult situation either independently or with familial or peer support, they learn that they can handle the challenges that come their way. This builds resilience which is an essential characteristic to have as they enter young adulthood. A validating and affirming statement such as “This situation is hard AND I know that you can handle it.” can go a long way in expressing both support and confidence in your child’s ability to cope.

4. Encourage them to practice healthy habits.

Healthy habits, no matter a person’s age, can go a long way. The teenage years are the perfect time to begin implementing this. They have a higher autonomy now and have the power to make choices on their own. Encourage them to make healthy choices.

Urge them to exercise daily, eat nutritious foods, and practice mindfulness and self-care techniques. Giving the mind and body the necessary fuel can help keep anxiety at bay.

5. Suggest therapy.

While anxiety is a normative experience in the teen years, if anxiety starts to become a daily occurrence and is impacting your child’s relationships, school experience, and/or functioning it is important to seek support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the evidenced based treatment for anxiety. Our trained clinicians will create a personalized treatment plan to equip your teen with coping skills that will enable them to think and act in a more effective and helpful way when faced with situational triggers of anxiety. Our team includes the individual’s support system as well and will empower you as a parent to promote active coping and support your child at home. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about teen anxiety therapy.

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