Tips for Helping Teens Manage Anxiety
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Tips for Helping Teens Manage Anxiety

According to a study from Harvard University, 18% of U.S. teens report suffering from anxiety. But because teens are notoriously good at hiding their thoughts and feelings from, well, everyone, it’s easy for parents and caregivers to not notice that something is amiss.

Some signs to look for may include:

- Irritability

- Lashing out

- Trouble concentrating

- Extreme sensitivity to criticism

- Extreme self-consciousness

- Withdrawal from usual activities

- Avoidance of new or difficult situations

- Recurring head- or stomachaches or frequent visits to the school nurse’s office

- Trouble sleeping

- Slipping grades

- Recurring absences from school

- Changes in behavior, including over- or undereating

While you can’t remove all the stressors from a teen’s life, as a parent or caregiver there are steps you can take to help them manage their anxiety. For example:

Have honest conversations

In a recent study, 40% of teens reported that they wanted their parents to reach out more, ask how they're really doing and really listen. Make time to connect with your teen. Be it right after dinner or during long car rides, find a moment to give them your undivided attention and check in. Acknowledge how your teen is feeling and empathize with them. Let them know that you appreciate how difficult things are and let them know that you’re always available to talk or to just sit with them.

Also, don’t wait to raise concerns. If you notice something is off, ask what’s causing the changes you’re seeing.

Share your own coping strategies

Talk to teens about things you struggle with and share how you’ve attempted to work through them. Your teens may find it refreshing to realize that not only are you human, but that you share the same challenges.

Don’t overstep

While it’s tempting to try and step in and fix whatever your teen is dealing with, it’s important to let them figure out their own approach and solutions.

Encourage healthy behaviors

No matter your age, sleep is essential to our physical and emotional health. Experts recommend teens get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Encourage your teen to limit screen time at night and to put phones and other digital devices in sleep mode at night.

If your teen is not physically active, try to find an activity that they can do alone or with you that will raise their heart rate and engage their body. Consider daily walks outside. Research shows that spending time in nature is an effective way to relieve stress and improve overall well-being. Plus, you don’t have to worry about special clothing or other challenges of going to a gym.

If you are concerned your teen’s anxiety is interfering with their daily routines and relationships with family and friends, reach out to a mental health professional for advice.

Local resources to consider:

If you’re concerned your teen is having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org . In life-threatening situations, call 911.

 

Lynn Mann, DO, is a pediatrician practicing at the SVMC Northshire Campus in Manchester, VT.

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