Anxious Teens: Take These Steps to Help Them Cope
Puberty, peer pressure, pressure to do well on exams and get into a good school…all while balancing extracurriculars. It’s no wonder stress and anxiety are fairly common aspects of life as a teenager. But if you’re a parent of a teen, you might find yourself wondering how much of this anxiety is normal and when you should be concerned.
When does anxiety become something to worry about?
As a parent, you never want to see your children unhappy. Yet, you know that if you step in and remove every stressor in their lives (as if this were possible), they won’t be able to grow and cope with challenges they might face later, when Mommy or Daddy is unable to swoop in and save the day. Still, knowing when normal anxiety is becoming a problem in their lives can be hard to tell.
Even infrequently occurring anxiety can cause symptoms like nausea and headaches or stomach pains. All of which can be debilitating when a big test is coming up. However, an isolated incident is not necessarily a sign of something more serious. Parents should start to worry when they notice anxiety causes extreme distress or occurs outside of normal emotional responses. Anxiety may get in the way if your child’s everyday activities, but you can help him or her cope and start feeling better!
Coping techniques for teens
1) Playing detective
This is an exercise you can do with your teen to figure out if he or she is experiencing anxiety or worry. Across the top of a sheet of paper, ask your teen to list the top three or four things that he feels are making him anxious. Underneath each one, write a column of reasons why he feels he should be worried about this. Doing this can help collect thoughts and identify ways to solve problems instead of letting worries take over the brain’s ability to come up with productive solutions. Even better, this will likely reveal some commonalities that point to a larger, more general source of anxiety that you can identify and work on together or with the help of a Houston therapist.
2) Play acting
Your teen may have done this kind of play acting as a younger child when trained in conflict mediation. It is helpful for teens as well. Simulate a possible situation, either by acting it out or merely by suggesting a hypothetical and chatting about it. It may seem silly, at first, for your child to pretend her mom or dad is a teacher, giving her a bad grade or a chemistry problem she can’t work out. Still repeatedly running through ways of handling these situations can be therapeutic and give your child confidence that he or she will be able to deal with similar situations in the real word. Some of these ways may be specific to situations, like feeling empowered to ask for extra help during office hours or getting a tutor. Other ways may involve anxiety reduction techniques.
3) Anxiety reduction techniques
Anxiety makes the body tense and this tension reinforces feelings of anxiety. Practicing yoga is a great way to loosen up the body and help you relax -much better than vegging out on the couch with some TV. The deep breathing techniques associated with activities like yoga are helpful too. Your teen probably shouldn’t drop into downward dog when he or she feels anxiety coming on at school, but the breathing techniques can be applied subtly to loosen up and shake off anxiety’s grip.
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