As a parent, it’s never easy to broach these topics, but it’s so so important.
The longer that you wait to talk to your teen about anxiety and stress, the more those emotions can, and will build up making that barrier even larger than it already is.
Here are some suggestions to help get you started.
How to talk to your teen about anxiety and stress
When it comes to talking to your teens timing is everything
While it’s important to talk to your teen as soon as possible about different things going on in their life, it’s also just as important to talk to them at the right time. Springing a random conversation on them that they aren’t going to be exactly thrilled to have isn’t going to end well for either of you.
Address the topic when they are sitting alone, and seem to be in a good and calm state. If they are already agitated it probably isn’t going to be the best time to try and have a constructive and positive conversation with them about what is going on.
Believe it or not, sometimes the car can be the best place to chat. There usually isn’t direct eye contact and its’ neutral ground for both of you. Just don’t do it when you’ve only got a few minutes and then they have to transition into a new situation like on the way to school or driving to a big game.
You could also take them out to coffee or a one on one dinner where the environment is relaxing. Don’t jump right on the topic, but see if you can gently guide them there. Ask questions that might get them to open up or even mention subtle observations about things going on in their life that could lead them to see things are not quite right.
Let them do the talking
You may have an idea of why you think that they are dealing with anxiety and stress, but that is just going to be your opinion. When your teen decides to open up to you and tell you what is going on, it’s time for you to sit back and listen.
No judgment, no interjection – just open listening with your mind, heart, and soul. The moment that you start interrupting them and trying to take over the conversation, the sooner they will close up and stop talking.
Sometimes all our teens need is to vent so they can get whatever is weighing on them off their chest and out of their mind. Give them your ear, not your opinions.
Don’t try to solve their problems right away
Also, don’t jump right in and try to solve their problems. What they need first is for you just to hear them out and let them share all the confusing mixed up feelings they are experiencing. They may not even fully be aware of what is going on, so you need to give them time to process it with you verbally.
Empathy comest first, solutions for how to cope with teen anxiety can come later.
Don’t take it personally
Your teen’s anxiety can be being caused by a number of things, and yes it’s possible that you are one of them. They may feel like you have certain unrealistic expectations that are more than they can handle. Sometimes they may be trying to live up to what they think you want from them, instead of what’s really true.
While it may be hard to hear, don’t take it personally. It’s important that you figure out why they are feeling anxious and if they perceive you to be part of the problem, than you need to address that together.
As parents, we’re not perfect. Sometimes we send unintentional messages to our kids or sometimes we mean well, but don’t communicate our expectations well. Hear them out, don’t get defensive, and either help alleviate misconceptions they may have or be willing to do a little self reflection in case you need to make a few changes on your end.
Also, even if you’re not part of the equation, don’t feel like you’re somehow to blame for their anxiety. This is a common condition today and not unusual for adolescents. It’s a difficult time in their lives and you shouldn’t take any kind of mental health issues your teen faces as a reflection on your parenting.
Don’t minimize or judge their experience
Teens tend to go through a lot of different emotions and social interactions that can really throw their lives for a loop. Some of it may seem silly or shallow, but try to remember what it was like when you were there age.
It’s hard to think beyond these high school years and it can feel to them like certain things really are the end of the world. You know better, but it’s not helpful if we become condescending. It will only push them away.
It’s also important you don’t become angry or accusatory when your teen decides to open up to you about what is truly going on.
If your teen feels like they are being judged, then you can guarantee that it will be the last time they trust you enough to share their deeper feelings.
Yes, sometimes teens are responsible for bringing the stress and anxiety on themselves. Perhaps they’ve made poor choices or they’re overblowing certain situations. This is not the time to point that out and to start telling them all the ways they’ve gone wrong.
If your teen has decided to trust you and talk with you about feeling stressed and anxious, just be there for them. Consider it a valuable opportunity to build your relationship with them and to establish a foundation that lets them know they can turn to you in their time of need.
At some point, the two of you can address their choices and work towards better decision making skills. But initially, you need a full understanding of what is fueling their anxiety and you aren’t going to get it if you lecture instead of listen.
Also, keep in mind that while talking is the first step, it’s possible your teen may need additional help and support. Neither you or your teen should ever feel ashamed if it is necessary to seek out a professional. It actually shows strong parenting on your side and courage on the part of your teen. Anxiety can become a very serious issue for teens, but one that can also be managed with the right interventions early on.
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