How to Help Teens Cope with Anxiety
Seeing your teen raptured with anxiety can be painful for the whole family. But parents can help loosen anxiety’s grip. Here are some strategies to team up with your teen and keep anxiety at bay.
First and most importantly, stay away from comments like “don’t worry” or “try to think about something else.”
These sentiments may seem helpful but they discount the way your teen is feeling. Instead, validate their feelings by telling them it is okay to be scared. Assure them that you are there to help them work through this tough time as a team.
Talk about actual scenarios or environments that trigger anxiety.
Listen closely and patiently, then brainstorm ideas that will make the situation less scary. Cover both general experiences and prepare for actual plans that may need extra planning. For example, help them memorize the first few sentences for a presentation at school or agree on the pickup time before a sleepover at a friend’s house. Celebrate the “wins,” when your teen is able to use these coping skills that you’ve been practicing.
Practice breathing and relaxation techniques.
Explore options such as guided meditation or breathwork together with your teen. The best thing about this is that there’s not really a “wrong” way to do it; in fact, studies show that simply paying attention to our breath is what kicks off the physiological benefits and helps us instantly relax. Plus, you can do them any time, for as little or as much time as possible with just your body.
Help teens become more intentional about the role of social media in their lives.
It may seem like old news, but it’s important to be reminded that images are often doctored to make every moment seem exciting, fun, perfect, or hilarious. These images are simply not real-life. Tell your teen that it’s okay and healthy to cut ties with people who treat them poorly in person or on social media with hurtful comments.
Get back to the basics with a healthy diet and enough sleep.
Again, this is a team effort, so remember to model your own habits and behaviors.
Finally, introduce your teen to a mental health professional.
Trained therapists and doctors can bring a more structured approach, that might include more intensive talk therapy or medication. Be there to help your teen find the right professional, through your personal network or insurance. Let them know that mental health is as important as physical health, and a lot of teens work with mental health professionals to up their game and get a little more help.
UpStreet is a mental wellness program that offers free drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens ages 12-22. UpStreet aims to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support, to avoid escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhance teens’ quality of life. Reach out to an UpStreet team member now using the chat bot located at the bottom of the page.