Watching your child struggle with anxiety, depressive thoughts and/or overwhelming stress can be one of the most difficult challenges we can experience as parents. Many of us are left with a heavy feeling of helplessness and even hopelessness. Anxiety with our kids can be contagious. Watching our child or teen’s anxiety increase can cause us, as parents, to feel increased anxiety and stress. Being equipped and prepared with strategies to help our child with anxiety and stress can be helpful not only to our child’s mental health but also to our own.
Here are some simple tips for us parents to support our teens with stress & anxiety:
1. Check our own stress levels. Are you overwhelmed and stressed out? Is the thought of how stressed out your child appears, stressing you out in return? Practicing our own self care is not only good for ourselves, but also serves as an example to our children of how it is ok to care for their own mental wellness. When our kids see us taking care of ourselves they are more likely to do the same.
2. Be observant.Recognize the signs of stress and be there with your support. Make sure that you show love and acceptance regardless of whether your kid makes the varsity team, or gets top notch grades. We don’t need to accept their poor behaviors but we do need to show acceptance for them and their current feelings and experiences.
3. Find opportunities to let THEM TALK and you listen(on their terms – not yours). When teenagers fall short of their goals, encourage them to release their frustrations in some constructive way instead of always hiding their disappointment. Be available to them on their terms, not your terms. Let them talk and you listen. Nothing is more important for kids than having people who can be depended upon to provide emotional support, help, and feedback. Parents often want to talk when THE PARENT is available. Be available when YOUR TEEN wants to talk. With teens, the moods and hormones fluctuate daily and hourly. When they give you an opportunity to listen to them – TAKE IT. My teen often likes to come into our room right before I’m dozing off to sleep. Those are the moments she is most open and willing to talk. Being available at that moment can be critical to having them release stress and giving them a safe and comforting person to communicate with. (We can always go to bed earlier tomorrow when they may not be as “chatty".)
4. Be sincere & encouraging. If you are concerned about them, let them know. They may not act like they hear you but they often do. Sometimes the best we can do is let them know we are here for them when they are ready to talk. Keep your hand reached out to them even when it doesn’t appear they want to take it. They may ignore us 99 times, but that last time…may just be the moment they need.