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How to Guide An Anxious Teen Calmly As A Parent

How To Guide an Anxious Teen Calmly as a Parent

Anxiety is one of the most common disorders among teens. The World Health Organization estimates that 3.6% of 10-14-year-olds and 4.6% of 15-19-year-olds struggle with at least one anxiety disorder. Such teens often look up to their parents for support and guidance. Unfortunately, how parents react to their conditions may end up escalating them. 

At Nexus Teen Academy, we are committed to helping teens, parents, and families manage mental health challenges through tailored interventions and resources. In this blog, we aim to help parents learn how to support and guide anxious teenagers without escalating their conditions or invalidating their feelings. Let’s begin by looking at a few mistakes to avoid when guiding an anxious teenager. 

Mistakes Parents Make While Guiding an Anxious Teen

As parents, we often have our teen’s best interests at heart. However, we may unintentionally escalate their issues through some of our reactions and strategies. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when dealing with an anxious teenager:

  • Dismissing or Downplaying Their Anxiety: Parents may choose to believe that teen anxiety is just a phase a teenager will overcome. Unfortunately, this may lead to invalidating their feelings and experiences.
  • Becoming Excessively Protective/ Overreacting: It’s okay to be concerned about your teenager’s well-being. However, overreacting or being overly protective can make them more fearful and hinder their ability to cope independently.
  • Failure to Address The Root Concern of Their Anxiety: More often than not, teen anxiety stems from an underlying issue. Unfortunately, parents can focus more on addressing symptoms than the root cause. This often leads to inadequate support.
  • Overly-Reassuring Them: While it’s okay to remind your teenager that everything will be fine, constant reassurance may reaffirm their anxious thoughts and beliefs about the world, causing more harm than good.
  • Asking Anxious Teenagers to Relax or Get Over Their Anxiety: Teen anxiety is not a phase or occurrence that can be controlled at will. Asking your teen just to relax or get over their anxious thoughts and feelings can make them feel guilty and misunderstood.
  • Ignoring Self-Care: You should remember to take care of yourself even as you support an anxious teenager. Engaging in self-care activities will help you avoid stress and burnout.

Most importantly, do not hesitate to seek professional help when necessary. Contact treatment centers like Nexus Teen Academy for professional intervention and tailored support.

Strategies for Supporting an Anxious Teen Calmly

Let’s see how to support a teenager navigating academic pressures, social anxiety, and fear of the future. 

Academic Pressures

Academic-related pressure is one of the leading triggers of teen anxiety. You should help your teen calmly navigate academic challenges and expectations to avoid triggering or worsening their anxiety. 

Where Parents Lose Calmness

We all dream of our children succeeding in school. Unfortunately, that may cloud our judgment whenever they complain of school-related challenges. Instead of being patient and understanding, we may end up doing the following: 

  • Dismissing them or making it seem like they are making up excuses. 
  • Comparing them to other teenagers or their siblings. 
  • Adding to the existing pressure by implying they are not working hard enough. 
  • Blaming them for their struggles. 
  • Ignoring or brushing off their complaints and concerns. 
  • Overreacting to their complaints. 
  • Micromanaging them. 
  • Imposing solutions without considering their perspectives or involving them in decision-making. 
  • Ridiculing or mocking their struggles. 
  • Making them feel guilty by highlighting the sacrifices that have been made for their education.

What Parents Should Actually Do

Instead of the above reactions, let your teenager know that it’s normal to feel anxious about school and that you understand their struggles. You should also explore the following strategies: 

  • Help them establish a structured study routine. 
  • Acknowledge and celebrate their efforts toward academic improvement. Remember to emphasize effort over results. 
  • Encourage them. Remind your teenagers of their strengths and past successes to let them know they can do it. 
  • Help them set realistic and achievable academic goals. 
  • Help them organize their study materials and acquire necessary help and resources. 
  • Teach them how to cope with academic stress healthily. This includes adopting relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and deep breathing. 
  • Monitor their academic progress and offer guidance where necessary.

Remember to create an open, supportive, and non-judgmental environment where your teenager can feel free to voice their academic concerns and seek support.

Social Anxiety

Teens with social anxiety fear everyday interactions. They may avoid social settings or feel constantly embarrassed or self-conscious while in public.

Where Parents Lose Calmness

Although unintentionally, parents may react impatiently to a teen’s reluctance or fear of social situations by: 

  • Pressuring them to engage in social activities or interactions without regard for their privacy or boundaries. 
  • Believing and telling them that social anxiety is just a phase. 
  • Unfavorably comparing them to other, more outgoing teenagers. 
  • Feeling embarassed or judged out of fear that their condition may reflect negatively on the family dynamics and parenting. 
  • Dismissing or trivializing their struggles. Do not tell your teenager to “snap out of it” or “go out more.” 
  • Pressuring them to share more than they are willing to do regarding their social anxiety. 
  • Ignoring their concerns, believing they’ll “turn out fine.”

What Parents Should Actually Do

Here is how you should support a teenager struggling with social anxiety: 

  • Encourage them to participate in social activities. However, do not push them too hard. 
  • Help them build their confidence and communication skills. 
  • Gradually expose them to social situations, but remember to respect their privacy and boundaries. 
  • Teach them how to manage anxiety symptoms in social settings. A few techniques worth introducing them to include relaxation and visualization. 
  • Help them recognize and challenge underlying thoughts or beliefs contributing to their social anxiety. 
  • Be a positive role model by demonstrating positive social interactions and coping mechanisms. 
  • Acknowledge their efforts and progress in overcoming social anxiety. 

Most importantly, be patient with your teen. Social anxiety cannot be overcome overnight. Offer unconditional support, and do not hesitate to seek professional help where necessary. 

Fear of the Future

While it’s normal to feel uncertain about the future occasionally, teen anxiety can cause intense uncertainty that can interfere with a teenager’s daily functioning and overall wellness. 

Unfortunately, certain parental reactions to a teen’s fear of the future, however innocent, may end up doing more harm than good.

Where Parents Lose Calmness

Watch out not to indirectly dismiss your teen’s existential anxieties by: 

  • Dismissing them through statements such as “You are just going through a phase.”
  • Changing the subject in an attempt to distract them from what they are feeling. 
  • Belittling their feelings. A common way of doing this is by telling them they are too young to worry about such things. 
  • Pushing them to talk about or make future plans without addressing their fears. 
  • Comparing them to peers who seem more confident of the future. 
  • Using dismissive language. 
  • Ignoring the root causes of their fears when offering help.

What Parents Should Actually Do

Here’s how you can help your teenager navigate their fears regarding the future, including college or career choices: 

  • Do not dismiss or downplay their fears. Instead, reassure them that it’s normal to be uncertain and that they are not alone. 
  • Encourage them to explore their strengths, interests, and values. Self-exploration can help teens understand themselves and identify areas of potential success. 
  • Help them set achievable goals.
  • Remind them that progress is better than perfection. 
  • Work with them to break their fears into manageable parts, then discuss realistic solutions. 
  • Help them focus more on the present through mindfulness and meditation exercises. Present-moment awareness can help alleviate anxiety. 
  • Help them see setbacks and failures as growth and learning opportunities. This will enhance their resilience and help them cope with disappointments. 
  • Share relevant personal experiences and stories of those who’ve overcome similar obstacles and fears. 
  • Offer them adequate information regarding career paths, education options, and available resources. 
  • Teach them to maintain a positive outlook instead of constantly dwelling on uncertainties. 
  • Keep communication lines open. Let your teenager know you are available whenever they need help. 

Above all, seek professional help if your teen’s uncertainty about the future negatively affects their functioning or well-being.

Strategies for Maintaining Parental Calmness

Staying calm while supporting an anxious teenager can be achieved through self-care and effective communication. Here is an in-depth exploration: 

Self-Care for Parents

Parental self-care helps manage stress and anxiety, leaving behind a calm, collected caregiver. Here are a few self-care strategies you can explore: 

  • Engage in deep breathing or meditation exercises. 
  • Prioritize sleep: Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every day. 
  • Exercise or engage in regular physical activity to boost your mood and energy levels. 
  • Engage in hobbies or activities that give you joy. 
  • Fuel your body and mind through healthy, nutritious meals. 
  • Set and enforce healthy boundaries. 
  • Take time outdoors for fresh air and sunlight. 

Above all, seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed. Talking to a therapist can make a huge difference in your teen’s support journey.

Effective Communication Techniques

Prioritize communication strategies that promote understanding and calm interactions when supporting an anxious teenager, such as the following: 

  • Actively listening to and showing genuine interest in what they have to say. 
  • Acknowledging their emotions and experiences. This should happen even if you don’t agree with their perspectives. 
  • Empathizing with their experiences. 
  • Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and opinions without blame or accusations. 
  • Encouraging open and non-judgmental conversations. 
  • Employing positive non-verbal cues to convey understanding and empathy. 

It’s also important to prioritize collaborative problem-solving. Ask for your teenager’s input and consider their preferences when making decisions.

Conclusion

Dealing with teen mental health issues can be challenging. However, you should always strive to offe a supportive presence. For those with anxious teenagers, it’s important to be patient, understanding, and calm when offering support. Additionally, do not hesitate to seek professional support if you find your teen’s condition overwhelming. 

At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer comprehensive interventions and resources for teens and parents dealing with mental health challenges. Our courteous, qualified, and experienced staff is ready to collaborate with you and your teenager to achieve positive outcomes. Feel free to contact us for tailored guidance and support.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Common issues that can trigger teen anxiety include academic pressure, family problems, cyberbullying, social media pressure and comparison, high-performance expectations, traumatic events, health challenges, uncertainty about the future, and questions regarding identity and purpose. 

Here is how parents can identify the above triggers: 

  • Observing behavioral, mood, and physical changes. 
  • Openly communicating with the teenager to understand their concerns and experiences. 
  • Observing how a teen reacts to certain situations or at certain times, such as when in social settings or just before exams. 
  • Monitoring how teenagers interact or behave on social media platforms. 
  • Paying attention to the teen’s fears, worries, or complaints. 
  • Checking the family environment for signs of stress, instability or conflict. 
  • Observing the teen’s social interactions. 

Above all, you can consult a mental health professional or your teenager’s school counselor for support and evaluation.

Here is how you can differentiate between typical teen angst and anxiety: 

  • Learn more about common teen behaviors such as occasional irritability and mood swings. 
  • Be attentive to significant behavioral changes, such as a decline in academic performance or sudden withdrawal from social activities. Such changes often suggest anxiety. 
  • Look out for physical issues like headaches, stomachaches, or frequent illness. These generally signify teen anxiety. 
  • Notice frequent or intense emotional outbursts or “exaggerated reactions” to minor stressors. 
  • Consider the duration and frequency of symptoms. Intense or persistent symptoms often signify teen anxiety. 
  • Consider impacts on daily life- Teen anxiety can impact teenagers’ daily functioning, including their academics, social life, and overall well-being. 

Teen anxiety can also manifest as avoidance behaviors, i.e., teenagers going to lengths to avoid certain situations or activities. Excessive or intense worry about future events or academic performance can also signify teen anxiety.

You should avoid the following common reactions as they may end up unintentionally worsening your teenager’s anxiety: 

  • Belittling their struggles
  • Comparing their condition to others. 
  • Pressuring them to perform socially or academically. 
  • Blaming them. Do not feel that your teenager should “toughen up” if they complain to you about mental health issues. 
  • Ignoring their signs or avoiding related discussions.
  • Taking control of their lives and decisions with the hope of reducing their anxiety.

Here is how you can support an anxious teenager amidst academic pressure: 

  • Help them set realistic and achievable academic goals. This requires understanding and respecting their limitations and capabilities. 
  • Create an open and non-judgmental space where they can discuss their academic concerns without fearing criticism. 
  • Reassure them of your conditional love and acceptance. 
  • Encourage them to have a balanced lifestyle. Help your teenager eat healthily, sleep adequately, exercise regularly, and take regular study breaks to enhance physical and emotional well-being. 
  • Encourage and celebrate their efforts and progress in their academic journey. Do not focus on their results only. 

Do not hesitate to seek help if their academic anxiety persists.

Use the following tips to encourage your teenager to engage socially without overburdening them: 

  • Create low-pressure social opportunities. For example, you can invite a friend over and allow them to socialize in the home environment. 
  • Encourage them to gradually step out of their comfort zone by joining a club or accompanying a close friend to a social event. 
  • Acknowledge, praise, or encourage them whenever they make an effort in their social life. 
  • Assure them it’s okay to feel anxious/nervous in certain situations. 
  • Help them develop their social skills through role-playing exercises or practicing conversation skills at home. 

Remember to respect their boundaries and comfort levels even as you encourage them to engage socially. Additionally, be patient with them and seek professional help where necessary. 

Here are a few ways to reduce anxiety triggers and foster open communication in your home environment: 

  • Practice active, empathetic, and non-judgmental listening. 
  • Create a safe, comfortable space for your teen to retreat whenever they feel overwhelmed or anxious.
  • Help your teen adopt healthy coping mechanisms. 
  • Set achievable goals aligning with your teenager’s interests. 
  • Help your teen maintain a consistent routine for structure and stability. 
  • Be a positive role model by engaging in self-care activities and adopting healthy coping mechanisms. 
  • Give your teenager space. Avoid intruding into their issues or affairs. 
  • Establish reasonable screen time limits to minimize exposure to anxiety-inducing media content. 

Here are a few instances and signs that signify the need for professional help for teen anxiety: 

  • Impaired social or academic functioning. 
  • Extreme physical symptoms, such as frequent headaches or stomachaches. 
  • Intense emotional distress. 
  • Engagement in self-harm behaviors. 
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation.
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