Parenting Tips for Teens with Anxiety


Parents and caregivers who have teenagers with diagnosed anxiety disorders aren’t relieved of responsibility in helping their teen overcome the challenges he or she faces. Even though the teen is getting professional help, there are several things that parents and caregivers can do to help their teen manage the disorder. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues among children and teens, so learning how to work with your teen, their physicians and therapists will go a long way in providing the teen the stability needed to face the problem.

Parents play an important part of how well a teen responds to medication and therapy, so the more that parents understand about overcoming anxiety and supporting their child, the better off the teen will be in facing fears and gaining confidence at school, work and home.  Here are a few parenting tips for anxiety-prone teenagers.

Tip 1. Education

Learning the difference between myths and fact about anxiety disorders is the first step. Parents should know that teens with anxiety are not dangerous and that anxiety on multiple levels is normal. Parents must also be aware that anxiety disorders can develop in any teen, regardless of sex, social status, intelligence and background. Finally, parents must know that teens cannot overcome anxiety alone—that they need a team of caring professionals plus parental involvement in order to manage the symptoms.

Tip 2. Leadership

Parents can help anxious teens by gently guiding them toward appropriate behaviors. Teens with anxiety disorders often avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Avoiding stressors is a way to cope, but parents can help teens face their fears and help them move forward. Examples of avoidance might include asking to stay home because they are sick, not wanting to speak in class, not wanting to leave the parent’s presence or dropping hobbies and activities they once enjoyed. Reassurance from parents really helps teens gain confidence and take steps toward interacting in a healthy, secure way.

Tip 3. Calm Interactions

Other things that parents can do for anxious teens is to make sure they are handling their condition as well as possible include keep calm if the teen has a panic attack or other anxiety-related outburst. Teens with anxiety are reacting to the chemicals flooding their body that signal “danger” even if no real threat exists. Behavior may include crying, lashing out, running away or blanking out. No matter how unreasonable the behavior is, parents can help run interference, coax positive behavior and encourage alternative coping skills so that teens can feel more comfortable in facing the new situation.

Tip 4. Manage Expectations

Many parents may be tempted to instill punishments for certain anxiety-related behaviors, but experts say that this is not an effective way to manage anxiety. It can actually make the anxiety worse because it adds stress to teens who are already aware of certain expectations and sees themselves as a failure. Instead, parents should praise any progress, keep as normal a routine as possible, modify expectations, reduce stress where possible and be flexible. While parents should enforce basic expectations for a teen’s behavior, such as keeping the room clean or having a curfew, they should avoid tying rewards or punishments to the anxiety disorder.

Tip 5. Balance

Finally, parents of anxious teens may take it upon themselves to do too much for their child so that the teen avoids all stressors completely. These kinds of parents may step in and interfere with a teen’s social life, schoolwork or other potential triggers. Instead, parents should let their teen handle what he or she can and experience some anxiety in order to practice healthy coping skills. Parents should only step in when their teen really needs it and by holding back, it sends the message that they believe in their child and that he or she can try on their own and the parents will be there for support. Parents can also model appropriate behavior when they encounter similar stressful events and talk about how the teen can learn from the adult’s approach to a problem.

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