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How Parents Can Help Their Adolescent Child Cope with Anxiety

How Parents Can Help Their Adolescent Child Cope with Anxiety

As you can probably tell, anxiety is a topic that strikes close to home for me. I’ve written several times about methods I’ve used to overcome and control my anxiety. But these were techniques I discovered later in life. A record number of children today suffer from anxiety and many of them go untreated. Today, guest contributor Noah Smith is here to discuss that exact issue:

Anxiety is one of the most common problems adolescents face, and often parents make the mistake of thinking that it will go away on its own, or that is will only get worse if they acknowledge it. Anxiety tends to fester, and attempting to “wait it out” in the hopes that your child will grow out of it typically doesn’t work. Here are some ways that you, as a parent, can help your teen cope with their anxiety.

Don’t be a shield for their anxiety

It may feel natural to want to protect your child from whatever it is that’s causing them pain, but if you position yourself as a shield between your child and whatever triggers their anxiety, you’re setting them up for failure in the long run.

“Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run. If a child in an uncomfortable situation gets upset and her parents whisk her out of there, or remove the thing she’s afraid of, she’s learned that coping mechanism, and that cycle has the potential to repeat itself,” notes Childmind.org.

As a parent, your ultimate goal isn’t to protect your child from and totally remove everything that causes them anxiety. This is not a tenable coping strategy. As your child ages, they will need to know how to manage their anxiety in the face of whatever causes it, and that preparation must begin during their adolescent years.

Think of your child’s senses when it comes to calming them down

Parents may not understand when typical anxiety (that we all have at times) crosses that bridge toward an anxiety problem, like social anxiety or general anxiety disorder (for more on that, check here).

But if your child suffers from anxiety that tends to get them worked up, the obvious method to handle this involves calming them down. But that’s easier said than done, in most cases.

Calm comes when one is able to focus on something relaxing or peaceful in the present – when they are able to let the anxious feelings about past actions and future problems fade away. One of the best tactics for helping your child find peace in the present is to positively stimulate their senses. Help them look at something peaceful – a photo, a book, a TV show – or you can attempt to utilize their sense of sound or smell through calming music or aromatherapy candles. Even giving them something sweet (taste) or rubbing their shoulders or neck (touch) can help.

Discuss the dangers of unhealthy coping mechanisms

The chance for people with anxiety or depression to develop drug abuse problems is far greater than those without these specific mental issues, so you have to have the drug and alcohol talk with your adolescent child as soon as you can. Here are some specific tips and resources for doing that.

You can warn your children about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol to cope with their anxiety until you’re blue in the face, but the fact is drugs and alcohol do make most people feel better in the short term. You can’t just tell them not to drink to help themselves manage. You have to also give them other, healthier ways to deal.

Teaching relaxation exercises at an early age can help with this. Yoga, meditation, and even moderate physical activity can all help people cope with anxiety.

Your child should understand that anxiety is a common condition and that their feelings are normal and real. You shouldn’t dismiss their feelings, but you must also not play into them and allow your child to hide from whatever stresses them. Instead of trying to protect your child from everything, teach them ways in which they can cope. These lessons will stay with them as they grow up.

Thank you Noah! Please be sure to check out more from Noah at his blog.

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