The world has always been a bustling place. But recent events and technological advances have amped up anxiety to a new level. World pandemic, canceled schools, declining economies, rampant media, and a world slowly trying to return to normal. Anxiety easily creeps–for you as a parent and for your kids and teens.
Young ones may grasp that a sickness impacted their everyday life, but adolescents will surely grasp the reality of the world. They will be glued to their social media feeds for live updates and new information…but anxiety isn’t so easily satiated, so they will reread things to try to soothe their ever-present anxiety.
The environment can prompt anxiety in your child, but that’s not the only factor. Some kids feel the need to be perfect and failure looms in the background. Other children are anxious about getting sick or injured (either themself or someone they love). Anxiety for teens can be linked to peer pressure, social standards, or the future.
If your child or teen is succumbing to anxiety, you don’t have to walk this road alone. Our team wants to partner with you so your child can learn how to manage his or her anxiety. Plus, here are seven tips to help:
TIP #1: NAME THE ANXIETY
That pile of clothes on the bedroom floor may look like a big scary monster in the dark. But as soon as the light shines on it, you can recognize it for what it is. The same is true of anxiety.
Your child bears the weight of anxiety’s invisible force as they stumble through the dark. By naming the anxiety, the light is turned on and you, the parent, can step in to help carry the load.
Sometimes kids don’t even realize that they are tugging along this heavy baggage, even though it seems obvious to you as an onlooker. Be patient as your child accepts the reality of the situation.
TIP #2: TALK ABOUT THEIR HEART
In addition to calling out the anxiety, talk about your child’s heart. Sometimes the anxiety is all-consuming, which leaves no room for the heart.
Speak what emotions you see swirling around in your kid’s heart, head, words, actions, and body language. Here’s a helpful chart to understand the core eight emotions (Truth column). The Impairment column reveals what happens when that emotion is not acknowledged and the Gift column is how that emotion is expressed in a healthy manner.
Begin adding these emotions to your everyday language, you will help your child identify and express their emotions as a means to reduce anxiety.
TIP #3: HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS
This is probably the tip you’ve been waiting for: healthy coping mechanisms. There are many ways to help your child cope with anxiety, but be sure to not skip step 1 (name your anxiety) and step 2 (talk about your heart) before step 3 (healthy coping mechanisms) or you’ll be merely treating the symptoms and not the root cause.
Here are a few common methods to reduce anxiety. Practice these exercises with your child! That will make it feel less awkward, provides accountability, and is an experience that you can talk about afterward.
- Deep breathing. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and relax every muscle in your body. Take in a slow, deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds before slowly exhaling. Repeat at least ten times, or combine with gentle body stretches to lengthen this exercise.
- Mindfulness. Lay or sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. As the parent, verbally guide you and your child through this exercise. Say, “First, think about your feet. What position are they in? How do they feel? Can you visualize what they look like?” Pause for thirty seconds. Then move on to your ankles and ask the same questions. Continue in this manner up the entire body until you reach the head. End by saying, “Think about your body as a whole. What does it look like? How does it feel? Awaken your body.” Pause for thirty seconds before opening your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. If preferred, you can play a 30 minute mindfulness for anxiety audio script prompting the same sort of questions.
- Expression. What are some natural ways your child expresses their creativity? Painting or drawing, listening to music or playing an instrument, taking a walk, cooking in the kitchen, writing in a journal, etc. Encourage your child to use this as a cathartic method to express their anxiety experience.
You can’t eliminate anxiety, but you can reduce it. These techniques will not cure your child or teen of anxiety, but it will lessen the symptoms and help you unearth the roots.
TIP #4: INCREASE RELATIONAL TIME
Anxiety sparks isolation, and isolation–nothing but me and my inner thoughts–increases anxiety. Counteract your kids anxiety with relational time.
Eat dinner together as a family. Take a walk in the evening. Read a chapter book together before bed. Establish a family game night. Do a craft or activity together.
Spending time with each other will increase trust, open up conversations, and be an avenue to lower your kids and teens anxiety.
TIP #5: LIMIT SCREEN TIME
This tip piggybacks on the last one. Screen time is not quality relational time. Technology and social media amp up distractions, FOMO (fear of missing out), peer pressure, and anxiety. Limit screen time to allow for more relational time.
Parents, don’t completely eliminate all screen time. For most teens, that will increase anxiety even further because now your teen doesn’t know what’s happening in their digital generation. Unless prompted by a counselor or doctor, simply reduce screen time.
TIP #6: SELF-CARE
Getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, limiting screen time (especially before bed), establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, participating in enjoyable activities, and consuming a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, and water will lessen your kids and teens anxiety.
It seems obvious, but having a healthy body is linked to having a healthy mind. Teach your child what healthy self-care looks like and build those manners into your family routine.
TIP #7: BE A MODEL–BECAUSE YOUR CHILD IS WATCHING
Remember when your toddler mimicked you in every single thing? Your teen may not do that anymore, and your older kids might be growing more independent, but one thing remains true: your children watch you.
Model healthy patterns of managing anxiety. Take time to care for yourself, engage in enjoyable activities, talk about your anxiety and your heart, and spend quality time with your family.
WHAT IF I NEED MORE GUIDANCE?
These techniques are a great place to start helping your kids and teens lower their anxiety. Do you find yourself needing more guidance, help, and tips? We know how overwhelming it can be to parent a child with anxiety so we’re here to partner with you.
At Redeemed Life Counseling, we help shine the light on the scary burden of anxiety. We teach your child how to reduce their anxiety. We can help your child or teen walk tall and free.
Contact us today. We can do this together.
Redeemed Life Counseling, LLC
Teen Social Anxiety