The news can be scary, unsettling, and anxiety inducing—and that was true even before the world turned upside down. So how can parents help calm their teens’ fears, while their facing the same fearful unknown? In this article, I’ll share the common warning signs that your teen is overly anxious and provide some specific way to help your teen process what’s going on in these uncertain times.
Watch for Anxiety in Your Teen
Anxiety is created when teens face the unknown. They may feel unsure about their future, question their purpose, or worry about how to handle problems in front of them. Under stress, some teens disengage from normal family life, choosing to withdraw into their room or sleeping for long periods of time. Others may self-medicate to alleviate the pressure by experimenting with drinking alcohol and taking drugs. While others may verbally express hopelessness or exhibit excessive anger and irritability.
If you see warning signs of anxiety in your teen, ask him how he’s feeling. Be a safe place to share his feelings and look for ways to take a break from the stressors––such as news or social media.
Be a Listening Ear When They Need to Process Their World
Our teens are being exposed to local and global tragedies through endless media streams. It’s important to help them navigate the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that are a natural reaction to bad news. One of the biggest needs for all teens is to feel heard. You don’t have to have all the answers. Your listening ear is enough.
Parents can have an important, positive impact on their teens, simply by listening! Take time to talk to your teen and ask your teen his opinion. Just having someone to talk to can help decrease his anxiety.
Share Your Own Struggles
I hear from many parents who are reluctant to share their own struggles with their kids. But I want to reassure you that telling age-appropriate stories about your own life will help your teen to see you as imperfect and “normal” –– and that’s a good thing. When times are tough, teens often feel like they are the only ones struggling. Hearing about challenges you have faced and overcome gives them hope for their own imperfections. Your experiences, help them see long-term solutions and to trust God no matter what happens.
Allow for Mood Swings and Bad Days
We all have good days and bad days, parents and teens included. But in uncertain times the hard days might come more often. So don’t be surprised when your teen has a bad mood. Your child is still learning how to handle his feelings. Instead of reacting to his bad mood or punishing him for feeling down, give your teen, and yourself, grace in the ups and downs. Knowing that their bad mood doesn’t push you away, and that there is someone who loves them no matter what, helps your teen learn how to struggle well.
Show Your Love by Giving Your Time to Your Teen
I often talk about the importance of spending time with your teen. That’s because your teen was created to be in relationships; it’s part of God’s design! Our modern culture and social media are a poor substitute for real, meaningful relationships. You can help your teen by taking regular breaks from your own responsibilities to lavish time and attention on your kids. Your teen will feel your love when you spend time together.
If you are struggling to connect, think about what can you do differently today to express a deep love for your child. No matter what happens, keep trying to go deeper with your teen and build a strong relationship that weathers life’s uncertain times.
Conclusion Hey moms and dads …. uncertainty ushers in fear and can lead to panic quickly. It can cause a teen to misuse their imagination, worry about life, and doubt those things that you have taught them. Anxiety can run rampant and hope gets flushed down the toilet if a teen feels uncertain about their future. So here’s my encouragement for you today. You are to be a voice of certainty amidst uncertain times. You can either fuel the worry and panic or you can be a calming voice that turns a bad situation into a wonderful opportunity to see how God’s going to show up when there’s a vagueness when viewing the days that lay before us. If you build a deeper relationship in times of uncertainty, you can be sure of the certainty of those relationships in the days ahead.