Supporting your teen with anxiety

Anxiety is on the rise for all age groups, especially for teens and emerging adults. Anxiety is often described as a feeling of distress or worry that manifests with thoughts and/or physical discomfort. It is common for young people to experience such feelings at one time or another throughout life – such as before a big sporting event, the first day of school, or while taking a final exam. Ideally, someone is able to cope with those feelings of nerves in the moment, and find ways to calm themselves or wait for the feelings to pass. Anxiety that is more severe, however, can become chronic or make specific events intolerable–this is when an individual is experiencing anxiety that is beyond what is considered “normal.” If this kind of worrying goes on for a long time, it can leave a young person feeling exhausted and isolated, and limit the things they feel able to do.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, there are things you can do to help them – including providing emotional support, working on practical strategies together and finding the right professional help if they need it.

Providing emotional support for your teenager with anxiety can be as simple as sitting with them and asking if they can take 5 deep breaths with you. Concentrating on their breathing and slowing down their heart rate and racing thoughts can be helpful in calming an anxious mind. You can also ask your child what it is that is causing them anxiety. Sometimes putting words to emotions can help to make whatever is causing stress seem more manageable. Another way to make someone feel more emotionally safe when anxious is to share with them your own experiences with anxiety. Hearing that they are not alone, and not “crazy” for feeling this way will help to make them feel less isolated. There are many more tips on what to do to provide emotional support for your teenager with anxiety, and doing research can help YOU feel more prepared. 

Working on practical strategies together to manage their anxiety is also another way you can help. These strategies may include mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises or sensory exercises, physical exercise or spending time in nature (you can read more about how programs like Summit Achievement use Adventure Therapy and Nature-based Therapy to help our students with anxiety here.) It may also be helpful to encourage your child to cut our stimulus from their lives that could be adding to their feelings of anxiety. 

Finding the right professional to help may seem like a daunting process, but there are resources available to help you with your search. First of all, it is important to remember that good parenting often means knowing when you need to bring in someone with professional experience and credentials to help your family. Your child’s school or pediatrician might be a good place to start, because those folks know your child and family well, and they often can make recommendations for a mental health professional. If you think a treatment program is necessary for your child, All Kinds of Therapy is a website that allows you to filter treatment options by age, location, and more. You can also work with a therapeutic or educational consultant

If you think a program like Summit Achievement is right for your teenager or emerging adult, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our Admissions Director is always happy to talk with families.