How to Support Your Teenager with Anxiety

Written by: Madeline Redetzky, M.S.
How to Support Your Teenager with Anxiety

Most of the teenagers I work with experience anxiety in some form. Over my years working with this population, I have found that I often am supporting the parents and family as well. I do not often hear people talk about how difficult it is for loved ones of those with anxiety. Much less those who have teenagers that have anxiety on top of everything else. It is a concept that many people are having a hard time understanding. These are the top tips I have discussed with parents that I encourage you to find a way to implement them in your home.

One of the first factors I discuss with teenagers and parents is the importance of understanding anxiety as a threat sensor. Anxiety is designed to detect perceived threats and sometimes those detectors start seeing smaller stressors as large stressors. It takes time to relearn these things are not a threat or build a tolerance up to them. Finding a therapist to work with your teen is a great way to overcome this challenge.

Next, I encourage parents to talk about it with their teen. If you are confused as to what is happening with your teen, ask them about it! Acknowledge their fears and their fear responses. You can even guess their fears and allow them to confirm or deny it. At least they know you are trying.

Remind your teens that taking things one step at a time is okay. While we adults need to practice multitasking, we have only improved at this concept over years of practice. Teenagers are still in the foundational phase of practicing it. Add in anxiety and it becomes that much more difficult. Encourage your teen to focus on what they can control and take on responsibilities and tasks one at a time to help prevent overwhelming feelings.

Ask what kind of support your teen needs. They may need help calming down, problem solving, or someone there to just sit while their body naturally calms itself down. It is not your job to fix them, only support them. Your teenager knows themselves better than you may think. Trust in them to know what works and does not.

Try your best to avoid blaming. This is easier said than done when we get frustrated and anxious as well. Remind them that your view of them has not changed and that you are trying your best to support them.

Lastly, if you are reading this and struggle with anxiety and stress yourself, you deserve to receive this support too. This goes for everyone since no one is immune to stress. Take care of yourself!