Sophie Riegel is a teen with anxiety, and she knows it can be debilitating. She says, “My friends all seemed so carefree. And I had the weight of the world holding me down.” Sophie now offers teen anxiety tips to help other struggling adolescents.
Signs Your Teen is Struggling with Anxiety
- Refuses to participate in activities they usually enjoy
- Stomach pain
- Heart palpitations unrelated to a medical issue
- Your teen tells you directly that she’s struggling
Natasha Daniels, author of Anxiety Sucks: A Teen Survival Guide says, “When we as parents try to normalize a teen’s anxiety, they may get the message that we don’t understand. This can shut down any further openness about their true struggles.”
Teen Anxiety Tips: What NOT to Say
Daniels says that being dismissive might “unwittingly minimize and dismiss their struggles. Which can create distance and disconnection.” Never say:
- “Maybe this is just a phase.”
- “Just smile.”
- “In a few days, you won’t even remember this.”
- “You always get over this. You are fine.”
- “You just need to get out more. Maybe if you exercise more, you will feel better.”
- “You are overreacting.”
- “Do you know how bad you make me feel when you won’t talk to me?”
- “There is nothing to worry about.”
- “That doesn’t make sense.”
Teen Anxiety Tips: Helpful Things to Say
Daniels says to,” Validate your teen’s experience and empathize with how hard it must be.” Try saying:
- “Is there something that I am doing that is contributing to your feeling this way?”
- “I’m here for you.”
- “I don’t understand what you are going through, but I would love to hear how you are feeling. Maybe we could learn about this together.”
Teen Anxiety Tips: The Support System
One of the best ways to help teens struggling with anxiety is through supportive relationships. Parents can start by:
- Empowering teens to problem solve: Perspective helps teens reduce their anxiety. Ask questions like, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and “If that happened what could you do?”
- Share valuable resources: Let your teen know about the many ways in which she can navigate and reduce her anxiety. Such as seeing a therapist, attending group therapy, taking courses, and reading books about anxiety.
- Involve your teen in the decision-making process: Let your teen know that it’s critical to “build their skills and get help in some capacity.” Then you can offer them various books, classes, and therapists, and let them choose which works best for them.
Riegel says, “I am living, breathing proof that it is possible to have an anxiety disorder and be successful.” And “I am successful not despite having a mental illness, but because of it.”
To learn more about anxiety in teens, click here.