What to do about Anxiety in Teenagers

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Anxiety  is a growing problem in the United States and it affects everyone from the elderly to adults to teenagers and children. 

I have been in Student Ministry for over 20 years. There is mounting pressure for teenagers to receive excellent grades in order to be accepted by the correct college. This is also true of college students who are attempting to land that dream job upon graduation. Many turn to prescription drugs like Adderall, an ADHD drug in order to enhance their focus when studying.

There is pressure socially for students to connect with others. The teenage years are like a pressure cooker for anxiety and if it is not dealt with then students carry these emotions into their adult years where will rely on prescription drugs, marijuana, or alcohol. Anxiety can lead to depression and place an enormous amount of stress on the body.

What can be done about this colossal problem? I believe it has some simple solutions and we should implement them in our lives. Often a student will experience anxiety when they have had a negative experience like a divorce in the family, or rejection by friends, a death in the family, or a huge move the family makes.  Helping your kids adjust when traumatic events take place is key. Below are some strategies to empowering your student.

  1. Enable them to only be in the moment. Much of our anxiety comes from things we fear might happen, but actually never do. This is a practice that takes time and effort in order to train the brain from thinking of future events that do not exist. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:28-34 in saying that tomorrow may never come. We only have the now. When this truth is understand it can revolutionize your life.
  2. Empower them to Visualize themselves as successful. I personally wished I had known this as a teenager. I spent much of my time envisioning myself as a failure and as I became an adult I accepted it as a fact. This may not take long only a few minutes a day, but have them mentally walk through each day being successful. Therefore, when the moment does arrive then they have already done it and have the confidence to perform when needed.
  3. Build Confidence in your child. Okay, so this is a no brainer right? It should be however if you go out to any sports field on a Saturday or Friday night then you would not hear it from parents. This is not a “every kid gets a trophy” point. It is a build your son or daughter up in the belief that they can and then you will watch them eventually do. They will have the freedom to attempt new and bold things, because they would have the confidence.
  4. Separate the Disappointment in the action from the person.  You must make the distinction between the person and the action. It is one thing to be disappointed in behavior, but if we allow our disappointment to carry over to the person then we might be creating a conditional relationship. Now the student is concerned or stressed that if they do not perform the correct way to please the parent then they will be a disappointment or even worse a failure. Therefore, always separate the action from the person. This is true in adult relationships as well.
  5. Encourage them Socially. The iPhone is an amazing invention and has transformed countless lives with the technology however it is also creating a generation that is unable to connect with their piers. Encourage your student to step out and meet new people. It is easy to think this is not important however I believe it is just as important as any education a child will receive in high school. Companies today are desperate for individuals who are able to communicate. Be positive and refer to point number 2 about visualization if your child is having a difficult time. There might be a relationship your student will miss out on if we do not encourage them to engage with others.

This list is not exclusive there could be other strategies that you may use. However I hope this will encourage you as you raise your student. It is never too late and I am an example of that.

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