There have been increased reports of teen mental health issues. More adolescents are participating in counseling than pre-COVID. Schools are seeking new resources to help students better manage anxiety and stress.
As a parent, how can you help your teen cope with anxiety?
Below are some strategies to help your teen manage their anxiety when they feel overwhelmed:
- Acknowledge it.
Sometimes we want to help someone feel better by problem-solving and reassuring them that things will be okay. However, to an anxious person, this may be perceived as if their anxiety is being minimized. Even if we do not have the same perspective and would handle a situation differently, their anxiety is natural. Acknowledging it helps reassure them that they are heard.
“You seem very anxious. Do you want to talk about what is going on?”
2. Following up with step 1, encourage your teen to talk about their feelings.
Remember that in many circumstances, the cause of the anxiety may be something new to the teen (i.e., their first bad grade, a breakup, and a fight with a longtime friend). If your teen has never experienced this issue, it may be challenging to know what to do. Show concern and understanding when speaking with your teen.
“What happened really hurts your feelings, and I know you probably feel overwhelmed.”
3. If your teen is ready to find solutions, help by encouraging them to brainstorm solutions.
“You are disappointed with the grade you received on your test. First, I want you to know that I don’t see you as a failure. What would help you, and what can you do differently before the next exam?”
4. Support your teen’s ability to build coping skills.
If your teen continues to feel anxious, help improve their confidence with positive feedback and affirmations. Also, encourage different techniques to manage the physical symptoms at that moment (see the bonus tips below).
“I know you have been working hard to improve your grade, and this class is tough. I see the effort you are making to do well.”
5. Bonus: Techniques that your teen can do on their own.
• Turn your attention away from the stressor and onto your breathing.
• Take a deep inhalation to the count of four, pause, and exhale to the count of four.
• Take a deep inhalation to the count of five, pause, and exhale to the count of five.
• Take a deep inhalation to the count of six, pause, and exhale to the count of six.
• Take a deep inhalation to the count of seven, pause, and exhale to the count of seven.
• Take a deep inhalation to the count of eight, pause, and exhale to the count of eight.
• Turn your attention away from the stressor and notice a specific color in the room.
Example: Notice everything in this room that is green.
• Stand up and slowly raise your arms above you while deep breathing.
• As you exhale, lower your arms.
• Inhale and bend your right ear down towards your shoulder. Exhale. Lift your head back to a neutral position.
• Inhale and bend your left ear down towards your shoulder. Exhale. Lift your head back to a neutral position.
• Inhale. As you exhale, bend forward and wrap your arms around your legs, pulling your torso into your legs. Inhale. Exhale. As you inhale again, rise up.
6. Consider counseling.
There is no shame in talking to someone about anxiety. It is the most common reason individuals seek counseling.
A specialty at my practice is teen and young adult mental health. About 40% of our clients are teens. Counseling teens can be incredibly beneficial, as it helps them express their emotions and learn how to manage them when experiencing life’s stressors. Through counseling, many clients feel prepared to face new challenges, especially teens graduating from school and planning to begin college.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, contact us.