Inside: the best tips for parenting a teen with anxiety.
Having a teen with anxiety can be a challenge for both you and your child. There are many things that you can do to help them when these hard moments come up, and it is important to learn about them.
Below is a list of some of the most helpful tips for parenting a teen with anxiety. I cover everything that you can do daily, to weekly, to when an attack arises. Remember to take only what fits with you and your family. Each teen’s anxiety is unique, and will take some studying to be able to find what works to help them properly.
This list will give you some ideas to hopefully help you build a tool belt that will give your teen comfort when they are stressed, and yourself as well. Because, let’s face it, seeing someone we love hurting is awful.
Daily Things to Do When Parenting a Teen with Anxiety
Here are some things that you can do daily with your teen to help them feel more balanced and safe throughout the day. You can practice these when they show signs of stress or just in general.
1. Check-In – This can be one of the best ways to establish a regular, open line of communication. The more comfortable they are in confiding in you when they feel their anxiety rising.
2. Show Them You Care – Never respond to their anxiety with heightened emotions. I understand how hard it can be to see your child going through something, but freaking out will only make things worse. Be there for them but don’t get worked up. You need to be in a safe space.
3. Watch What Triggers Them – Learning about your child’s anxiety triggers can be one of the most helpful things you do. Just pay close attention to what affects them and what sets them off. In time you will either be able to teach them to overcome the stressor or learn to help them calm down.
4. Do not judge – Lots of parents think that their teen is just using anxiety as an excuse for acting a certain way. The best way to help your teen with anxiety is to assure them that you believe them. This will alleviate some stress.
5. Push Them A Little – By this, I do not mean force them to do anything that they aren’t comfortable with. I have seen from experience that anxiety gets worse when the problem is avoided. Help them to face it little by little. So acknowledge it but do not remove the obstacle itself.
6. Ask Open Questions – Try your best to avoid putting any ideas in your head with pointed questions. Instead of asking, “Are you nervous about your driver’s test?” You can simply ask how they are feeling about it.
7. Walk Through Fear Plans – To help them to better react when a stressor happens, you can talk them through how they want to handle it beforehand so they have more direction.
Weekly Things You Can Do
Here are some bigger things that you can make a point to do weekly with your child.
8. Show Your Teen How You Handle Stressful Situations – I know that we like to hide the hard ways of the world from our children, but this can cause more harm than good when they get older. So when something like a late power bill happens, be calm and show them how to handle it.
9. Watch a Ted Talk on Anxiety – The more your teen learns about anxiety, the less power it will have. Of course, it will still arrive, but when it does, eventually, your teen will be able to identify it as foreign and use their coping strategies.
10. Spend Alone Time Together – Quality time spent doing something fun will help to cultivate a strong bond and relationship with your teen and will ultimately lead to better communication and less anxiety when they come to you for help.
11. Work on Breathwork – Breathwork has been proven to help get teens out of anxiety attacks quicker and easier. It helps them return to a stable way of breathing and puts the body at ease. Practice this at least once a week.
12. Work in A CBT Workbook – These workbooks that you can get on amazon are recommended by therapists. They help teens to work through stressful situations and regulate their responses.
13. Therapy – Having your teen go to a therapist is a great idea when they have anxiety. A weekly visit with a professional can help them have a designated space to work through their feelings. This is a must.
14. Continue to Research – You can never have enough information on helping your teen with their anxiety. New information is constantly being learned about it, so you should try and learn one new thing weekly, at least.
What to Do When Anxiety Arrises
These are for when an anxiety attack happens. This can be very scary for your teen and yourself, so it is good to have tools like these under your belt.
15. Let them know that a panic attack is harmless – Although it might not feel this way, it is good to reassure your teen that they are not going crazy and that they are not in danger of dying or having a heart attack.
16. Be Caring but Don’t Crowd Them – It can feel extremely claustrophobic to have an anxiety attack, so smothering them will not help in the slightest. They need to breathe, so give them their space.
17. Be Calm – I understand how hard it is to be calm when you see your child going through something scary. But the calmer you are, the more it will signal them that everything is okay and they are safe. Be that safe person, not another panicked one.
18. Give them Something to Smell or Squeeze – Having them use their other senses can help to distract the brain from the scary thoughts going on in their mind. Lavender is great for this!
19. Allow Them to Rest – After a big panic attack, they will most likely be exhausted. So allow them to get some rest to relax. If they have work, school, or homework, help them to move their schedule around to fit in at least half an hour of calmness.
20. Talk About It – Afterwards, you may be inclined just to avoid the topic since it brought about so much stress, but you must talk about it to be able to get a good idea of what happened and how they were feeling. And to be able to discuss ways to improve it for the next time.
21. Do Not Let Them Avoid the Stressor Forever – When they have anxiety, it can be good to get them out of the environment that did it, but you must not let this deter them from it forever. Some slight pressure will be needed on your part to help them fight their fears.
I hope that you found these tips to be informative and helpful in your journey of parenting a teen with anxiety. I understand how hard it can be, the struggles and triumphs can feel few and far between, but the most important thing is that you are caring for your teen the best way possible.
There are some other things that you can include in your teen’s routines that will serve as tools for them as they go through life. These are things like journalling and medicating. Urging them to incorporate a few things like that can also be helpful, although this isn’t a tip directly for you and more for them. Stay calm, loving, and strong…you got this.