If your teen is struggling to socialize, attend school, and do other basic day-to-day things, you may feel as though her anxiety is slowly dominating both of your lives. Worse still, you will likely feel powerless to help your teen and end her suffering. However, while it’s true that there is no panacea for anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to make it easier for your teen to cope. Rather than trying to “cure” your teen’s anxiety, help her learn to control it by not making the four common parenting mistakes below:
1. Being overly accommodating.
As a concerned parent, you may feel tempted to shelter your child from her anxiety. You may think that if you can remove your child from triggering situations, the anxiety will cease. Most of the parents of anxious teenagers make this mistake: If their child is anxious about going to school, for instance, they decide to home school her. Alas, while this approach may lessen anxiety in the short term, it may turn it to worse over the long term. Why? When a parent does such things, he or she sends the message that yes; these situations are certainly intimidating and must be ignored.
This does not mean that you should take a harsh “tough love” approach with your teen. Not helping out your teen at all will make her feel alone with her anxiety and this will only serve to rise up her fears. Instead, you will have to strike a balance: Advice your teen that it is okay to take “breaks” from stressful situations in order to regroup, but motivate her to tackle those situations again as soon as she feels capable.
Furthermore, you should get in contact with a mental health expert to help your teen develop coping mechanisms which she can use to manage stressful problems. Overcoming various small challenges will build her confidence so that further she may be able to tackle larger hurdles.
2. Trying very hard to “fix” your teen’s problem with anxiety.
Some parents are extremely proactive about combating their teen’s anxiety. They read every book available on related topic, participate in their child’s therapy sessions, as well as give 110% hope of fixing the issue at hand.
Sadly, while you may think these efforts are ‘caring’, what your anxious teen probably feels is pressure: Pressure to get better, soon, try to hide their anxiety rather than facing it, or might become overwhelm. Teens in this situation mostly “freeze up” because they create a fear of failure. They may turn to be slower to adopt the coping strategies they need and give up altogether.
As taking a supportive role may feel “passive” to you, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your teen. Remember: Even if your teen is struggling with anxiety, she still has to walk the path of adolescence. She needs to become a little more independent and learn how to empower herself, as you cannot fight the battles for her. All you can and must do is being her best ally and guide.
3. Misreading anxiety.
If you were lucky enough not to suffer from anxiety during adolescence, you might misunderstand your teen’s battle with it. For instance, you may think that your teen is exaggerating her symptoms in order to get out of doing things she doesn’t want to. However, in reality, this is seldom the case—most teens hate admitting that they’re vulnerable, so they’re unlikely to choose anxiety as an excuse. Suppose your teen is telling the truth and proceed to cure the problem.
4. Trying to discover “reasons” for your teen’s anxiety.
For people who don’t struggle with anxiety, fears are generally connected directly to causes. If a person without anxiety has a strong fear of dogs, for example, it can probably be linked back to a negative experience with a vicious dog during childhood. Chronically anxious people, on the other hand, often create fears that lack an apparent cause. One must therefore avoid assuming that your child is being bullied, it might have experienced a trauma you were not aware of, etc. The causes of chronic anxiety are mostly purely genetic; as such, they are probably rooted in your teen’s brain chemistry.