Parenting an anxious teen and the impact on our mental health

Posted by Verity Jones on 24 February, 2023

In our latest blog post, Verity (one of our trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners) explores what parents can do to help support a teenager experiencing anxiety. She reviews some of the common symptoms of anxiety to look out for and the different ways in which parents can support their child. She then looks at the importance of looking after your own health and wellbeing, and how a service like TALKWORKS can help.

 

How can I tell if my teenager is experiencing anxiety?

Parenting has to be one of the hardest jobs there is. It can be rewarding, frustrating, hilarious, uplifting, and soul destroying all at the same time! We all want to do the best we can to support our young people, and to give them the tools and resilience to cope with the difficulties that life will throw their way. This can be particularly difficult when our children reach their teens, and are likely to be exploring the world and their potential. Although they won’t like to tell you, you are still their best source of reliable information and guidance. They are still looking to you (when you’re not looking!) for how things are meant to be done. All the more reason why we need to look after ourselves and our mental wellbeing, to help look after theirs.

We are bound to worry about our teenagers and their mental health as difficulties become more common, teen anxiety has doubled in the last decade. Peer pressure, social media, exams, and the climate crisis, are all impacting our young people in a way we didn’t experience, and it can be hard for us to understand.

It is normal to feel anxious at times, even helpful, and everyone gets anxious from time to time. But how do you know if your teenager is suffering from excessive anxiety? Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Constant worrying
  • Not sleeping well
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Quickly getting angry or irritable
  • Being out of control during an outburst
  • Feeling tense
  • Being fidgety
  • Going to the toilet often
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Frequent crying
  • Clinginess
  • Constantly seeking reassurance
  • Complaints of physical pain (e.g. tummy aches)

 

What can we do to help?

How can we best support our young people? How can we teach them the skills and resilience they need to get through difficult times? And how can we look after ourselves, and manage our own difficulties, in order to be able to do those things? Here are some ideas:

Try reframing your child’s anxiety:

  • Anxious people usually have vivid imaginations. Though focused on what might go wrong, this imagination could be used to visualise things going well.
  • The tendency to ruminate, rehearse and replay negative events indicates the potential to be good thinkers, planners and organisers.
  • Socially anxious people are usually very sensitive to their own feelings and to those of others, in social situations. This gives them great skill in understanding people.

It can be very easy to become frustrated and critical in the moment which can lead to arguments, but perhaps try saying something like this to your socially anxious teen:

  • It sounds like you are very sensitive to everyone’s feelings – you work hard to understand people’s feelings.
  • It sounds like you take your time to consider things before you decide what to do, that is a good skill.

 

One of the keys to helping your child with their anxiety is to become aware of your own emotions and reactions. A really good way of doing this is by keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to dedicate a huge amount of time to it, but it will help you notice what is going on with you too. Once you understand your emotions and how their anxiety makes you feel, you then have the ‘space’ to choose a more helpful response.

 

How can we look after ourselves?

This is all very easy on paper, but we could all use some help with how best to support our anxious teens, and here at TALKWORKS we have just the thing! Get in touch with us and we can help you work through an online course that will equip you with the tools to help your child, and give you some excellent tips for taking care of yourself. After all, we can only offer the best of ourselves if we are in a good place. If you would like some help getting yourself back on track, please give us a call on 0300 555 3344, and one of our trained therapists can give you the support you need. Alternatively you can self-refer to our service by completing the online self-referral form on our website.

 

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