Adolescent Anxiety: A Three-Part Series
Part 3- – – How to Help Youth
Now that we understand a bit more about anxiety (link to Part 1) and how it is different for teens (link to Part 2) – how do we help the youth in our lives who we notice may be struggling with anxiety?
- Love, Empathy, Understanding
First: love, empathy, and understanding are central. The experience of anxiety is human and hard; and is even harder when there is perceived isolation and judgement – so exercise love, empathy, and understanding as much as possible.
Seek resources together to learn more about information that identifies what may be happening for them and empowers them.
- Acceptance and Normalization
The acceptance piece and normalization piece are huge. There is common humanity in the experience of anxiety: they are not alone – explain how it is adaptive and is a survival mechanism when it operates in balance. Pervasive and unhelpful anxiety is normal too, but they do not have to continue feeling that way and it is treatable.
- Appreciate their Resilience
While anxiety is the most common psychiatric diagnosis for teens, it is also the most treatable! If you set them up for success by providing the right tools and the right opportunities, it is incredible what they can do!
Further, help develop their confidence in their ability to cope with uncertain situations. The more they learn they can “do it” the easier it will become for them to adaptively respond to these anxiety-provoking situations.
Emphasize the good and highlight their strengths. Focus on what they are innately strong at and what their unique qualities are, and build from there, instead of focusing on weaknesses and shortcomings.
Additionally, cultivate a “safe” space for them to engage in calming activities that relieve anxiety and stress. That looks different for everyone, so experiment and find what fits best.
Finally, be cognizant of the expectations that you hold for teens and the pressure you put on them – expectations need to be realistic and adjusted for each individual person based on always changing circumstances.
And just to expand on the acceptance and normalization piece… Where possible, iterate to the youth in your life that:
- Anxiety is adaptive and normal – it is a shared and necessary human experience.
- We cannot control everything and that is perfectly okay. Our growth comes from leaning into what we cannot control.
- Mistakes are inevitable. We are only human, after all, so that is entirely expected that mistakes, and therefore learning, will occur.
- Change is difficult. We are wired to feel safe and comfortable with the familiar, and change challenges those capacities – that is normal and adaptive and it is an inevitable part of life to experience and adapt to change.
Altogether, youth are so resilient if we provide them the tools and opportunities the sooner you get help for your kiddos and teens the sooner they can learn and exponentially build on those skills. Set them up for success and get help as soon as you are noticing challenges.
We hope you enjoyed this three part series on Adolescent Anxiety. If you are concerned your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, take this quiz to help with understanding how anxiety presents in children and adolescents.
If you feel your child would benefit from therapy, please book an appointment with a Pine Cone Health therapist who specializes in childhood and adolescent anxiety.