June 8, 2019

You don’t know what to do for your teen anymore. She’s either texting you from school because she’s upset about problems she’s having with her friends.

Or she’s in her room staring at her phone even though she says she’s completely overwhelmed by school. She’s always gotten good grades, but now she seems to get so worked up that it’s hard for her to concentrate on her classes.

Initially, you would drop everything to help her work through whatever was bothering her. Now you find yourself dreading getting her text message. You worry that you aren’t doing enough. And you worry that you are doing too much. When you do give her advice, she shouts “you’ll never understand me!” You are starting to wonder if you will.

You keep wondering if all this teary, moody, anxious, overwhelmed teen stuff is normal or if it is time to seek help. You don’t want your teen to feel like anything is wrong with her. She already thinks that most of the time. But you do want her to have a place she can not only accept herself but also find new ways of coping with the teenage years.

You think you’re ready to seek help and hope that it can get better even if it is just teenage angst. And then your teen asks if they could talk to a counselor like one of their friends did. So you start the search of trying to pick a counselor for your teen.

In the meanwhile, you are wondering how to help your teen with all the anxiety and overwhelm, because you really don’t want to make it worse.

3 Tips for Helping a Teenager with Anxiety:

  1. Normalize Their Feelings: Everyone feels anxiety or worry especially when we are facing change and stress. Reassure your teen that even you have felt anxious at times. It’s our minds way of trying to protect us from some perceived threat. The more aware we become of our thoughts, the more we can learn to challenge them.
  2. Empower Your Teen: Ask your teen what do they think they need to hear or do. You’d be surprised by the coping skills that teens already have but forget about when their emotions are high. Asking this question will cue their brains to look for their own answers and remind them that they have wisdom inside.
  3. Breathe with Your Teen: I know this sounds ridiculous, but in all seriousness, breathing helps invite calmer thinking. So invite your teen to take some deep breaths with you. Then your teen can revisit what they need and whether or not there’s any evidence to support their fears.

And if you feel stuck and unsure about how to support your teen when they are anxious, then do find a psychotherapist or counselor who specializes in both anxiety and working with teens and their families. Your teen can find ways to better manage changing relationships, quiet negative thinking and learn to love themselves more.

Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a resident and business owner in Lee’s Summit. Marci helps teens and adults who are struggling with anxiety, stress, perfectionism and relationships at https://marcipayne.com.