Teen Anxiety? Parents of teens are used to the idea that stress is a part of their everyday lives. With so many commitments and obligations, they are acutely aware of their own stress levels. What they might not ever have considered was the stress their children, specifically their teenagers, are under. They may hear their teens complain about being anxious or feeling like the world on their shoulders, but few may realize just how tough that is for their kids. After all, kids don’t typically have families to feed, bills to pay or any serious work commitments. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
The reality is, that’s simply not true. Teens are often just as stressed, if not more so, than their parents. Homework and the pressure to succeed is very real in their lives. Instead of tuning out their complaints (We get it. They complain a lot.), take the time to listen—really listen—to their concerns. Take their claims seriously because what sounds like “just a test” to you might be the most important test of their lives to them. They are under extreme pressure to get good grades or to make a team or to stay connected to their peers.
Life for them—and us—is about competition. Unfortunately, healthy competition can lead to unhealthy stress levels and anxiety.
What your teens want most is to have their feelings acknowledged and validated for what they are. They don’t need a lecture or a flippant response. They need to be heard.
We know, as adults, how paralyzing stress can be for us. It can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep loss, weight issues, risky and dangerous behaviors, and so much more. Teens are already vulnerable to so many of life’s stressors and if we don’t help them cope with their feelings now, we may regret it later.
It is up to us, the people who were given the opportunities to raise them and teach them life’s lessons, to step up to the plate, hear their concerns, allow them a safe place to voice their feelings, and help them come up with solutions to alleviate the mounting pressures in their young lives. We know that statistics state that people who don’t have a healthy outlet for their emotions will act out, or worse, bury their feelings until the dam bursts. That’s not a scenario any parent wants to face. Do your part now. Speak to your children. Open the lines of communication. Help them find healthy coping mechanisms. Intervene when necessary. Don’t let children handle life on their own.
While, yes, our children may be ready for some responsibilities, they’re in no way ready to deal with major issues. Give them an outlet and help them thrive. Look for the telltale signs that something is amiss. Speak to their school counselors, teachers or coaches. There are support systems out there waiting for you to ask for help. Let your child know that they are not alone.
By Alan Freeman