Anxiety, being a normal emotion, we all experience from time, has become a commonplace term within all families in our society today. The unfortunate reality is teenagers today are experiencing increased amounts of anxiety due to a variety of circumstances. Wading through the teenage years is challenging, and having a teen who struggles with anxiety adds yet another layer to the responsibility of being a wonderful parent.

So, how can I best support my teenager who is experiencing anxiety?

~Minimize extra-curricular activities.

Downtime is necessary and being bored is ok. Between play dates, carpool, soccer practice, grocery store, picking up a last-minute birthday gift, and dance class how do families find time to be together? Other than in the car.   If you find yourself out of breath, in a time crunch, losing your patience, volunteering for three committees at your child’s school, you name it…you are doing too much and so is your child. An over-scheduled child/teenager is an anxious one. Plain and simple. Attempt to let go of the parenting peer pressure of having your child in multiple activities/sports/groups. Placing limits will reduce anxiety for your entire family.

~Model self-care and healthy coping skills

Children and especially teenagers are watching you, listening to you and learning from you.  We all have bad days, say things we don’t mean, act immaturely, selfishly, etc. Acknowledging stress and taking time for yourself as a parent should not be an unusual occurrence within your home. If teenagers witness a parent experiencing something uncomfortable and then finding calm within that space- they learn resilience and gain understanding of how to navigate the ups and downs in life.

~ Create space for honest conversations.

First and foremost, be patient.  Teenagers tend to talk about things later at night and certainly not when they walk in the door from school! (Trust me, I am guilty of that one!). Another tip from personal experience: Have your teen’s friends over to hang out and eat snacks on a regular basis if possible.  I learned so many things while serving snacks and then cleaning my kitchen.  Sometimes I chimed in and was curious about their stories, other times I was just in the background slowly putting away clean dishes.  This is especially helpful when your teenager is not a talker; hearing about the daily drama in the life of a teenager is priceless.  It later opens doors from a parental perspective of “being in the know” or asking some follow up questions “how did that turn out? Or whatever happened with Kaeli and her boyfriend?”  Be aware: you may or may not get an answer.  No matter the outcome, you have shown your teen that you are available and possibly they may see you are not the dumbest parent on the planet!

~ Promote family time opportunities that reduce stress.

Weekly board game or movie night, work a puzzle, go for a walk together, volunteer in your community, make homemade pizzas or ice cream sundaes. Each of these examples increases “face time” which we so desperately need with each other. Teenagers may bawk at first; however, they will come around.  Spending 1-2 quality hours per week with family is not asking too much. Be intentional as a family, be selfish with your time together- you are making lasting and meaningful memories!

Lastly, if your teenager’s anxiety begins to affect your overall family dynamics, you notice their sleeping or eating habits change, grades in school decline etc. reach out for additional support.  Working alongside families with teenagers, meeting with teens on an individual basis, and providing additional education and resources is something I am passionate about. Reach out today for afternoon and evening sessions.