According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are pretty common among teens and tweens, affecting one in every eight children. (1) Such issues are common because during teen years your body undergoes significant physical, psychological, and hormonal changes. Almost every child experiences anxiety during his/her growing years. Some of them are able to cope up with changes easily, whereas many others would need help. If not treated clinically, depressed teens could suffer from substance abuse, poor concentration in studies, and poor social interactions. They will appear to be shy, afraid, and nervous even during normal circumstances. As parents, it is your responsibility to understand your child’s emotional state, support him, motivate him, and counsel him too. If required, you must take him for psychiatric evaluation as well. He may not like the idea initially, but you will have to make him realize that his feelings and emotions are completely acceptable and that the doctor is only going to help him deal with them in a positive way.
Dealing with your teenager’s anxiety is not going to be easy for you. He will react negatively on every advice of yours and probably will stop communicating with you completely. So, it is very important to take up the right approach that encourages him to confide in you instead of distancing himself from his family. In this blog, we will provide you with some helpful parenting tips on dealing with teenage anxiety. Please note that these tips are mere advice and not a substitute for medical treatment. If your child’s mental state is going down day by day, seek medical help immediately.The below mentioned tips will help you deal with your anxious teenager positively:
Stop reassuring your child
This is the biggest mistake that we parents often make. We continuously try to assure our children that nothing is wrong in their life without understanding their practical problems. As a parent, you need to understand that your teenager may not be having any problem and still be nervous and anxious due to hormonal and psychological changes. Instead of burdening them with tons of assurances and impractical advice, we must try to put ourselves in their shoes. We should try to feel their pain and emotion. We should let them feel the way they want to. It's ok to feel anxious about going to a new college. It's alright to cry for a few days when you have experienced heartbreak. If you are being bullied, it's ok to feel angry and irritated. You cannot and should not ask them to ignore their emotions because it is impractical for a teenager to do that. Instead, you should encourage your child to go for activities that help them change their emotions or help them find solutions to their problems.
Motivate them for taking up a physical activity
Experts recommend that teenagers must do at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. (2) It is clinically proven that exercising stimulates our body to release serotonin, the hormone that helps us feel good and get rid of stress. It also helps people get good quality sleep. No wonder why an hour of exercise is strongly recommended for almost everyone, including children and teenagers. You don’t need to force your child to go for jogging. He can choose any activity of his choice that lets his heart rate go up. Swimming, dancing, skipping, boxing, yoga, pilates, zumba, strength training, are some fun exercises that your teenager would want to join. If he/she feels shy, you can also join the same class to make him/her feel comfortable.
Make sure he gets adequate sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 15% teenagers get 8 to 10 hours of recommended sleep on a regular basis. (3) Hectic schedules, increasing use of electronic devices such as mobile phones, and hormonal changes are responsible for their irregular sleep pattern. The hormonal changes can affect the functioning of their biological clock. They may feel like staying awake till late night and may feel sleepy during the day. Lack of sleep can make them feel hyperactive, irritated, and anxious. It is clinically proven that sleeplessness can cause anxiety and vice versa. If your child is struggling hard to fall asleep, you can motivate him to decrease the use of mobile phone after evening. Encourage him to read a book. You should also buy him a weighted blanket for anxiety.
Weighted blankets are highly recommended for people who find it difficult to fall asleep. These heavy blankets with extra weight stuffed as fillings are clinically proven to help people doze off quickly. According to a study quoted by Harvard University, they provide deep pressure therapy to the users. (4) It is the same kind of pressure that you experience when someone hugs you. This deep pressure stimulation helps calm down our nervous system and stimulates the production of serotonin, the happy hormone. Serotonin, in turn, stimulates the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This means the weighted blankets for anxiety will help you feel good and sleep better so that you wake up feeling refreshed. Stress blankets are recommended for anxiety, depression, insomnia, restlessness, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, alzheimer's, parkinson’s disease and other neurological and psychological diseases that could affect sleep.
Anxiety blankets are safe for almost anyone except for kids below 7 years and for those who are old/weak enough to remove the blanket on their own. They are readily available at Target stores as well as on Amazon. We recommend AG weighted blankets that have an enviable 4.8 star rating on Amazon and are one of the best-rated products there. Unlike the cheap weighted blankets, these ones are made of 100% pure breathable cotton fabric and have high-quality hypoallergenic glass beads filling. Here is their link for more details:
Focus on healthy eating habits
For years, it was believed that anxiety causes digestive problems but an increasing number of studies have recently concluded that irregular and unhealthy food habits can cause irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterized by constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, etc. (5) IBS can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and depression, which is why you must encourage your teenager to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Processed food, fatty diet, high-calorie food items, and excessive intake of processed sugar should be avoided at any age. Nutritional deficiencies can affect the functioning of the brain. It can block the formation of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that govern every action of our body, including the secretion of hormones. Less quantity of neurotransmitters means your child will feel lethargic, irritated, and confused.
Keeping your child away from junk food and carbonated beverages is not going to be an easy thing, as your child will crave for them initially. But, with your support, he will definitely feel motivated to minimize the intake of processed and junk food, especially when he is at home.
Teach him mindfulness and meditation
Your child will probably won’t like the idea of practicing mindfulness. That’s because we often feel that it’s a complex thing and requires a lot of practice and patience. Well, it’s true but practicing mindfulness is not so difficult and boring. It is all about paying attention to our daily activities that we typically rush through. It is as simple as focusing on the breakfast instead of checking chat messages or enjoying a cold shower instead of thinking about the day’s work while showering. Basically, it’s about slowing down your random thoughts that constantly bother you even though you hardly realize that. You can encourage your child to enroll for a meditation or mindfulness class or he can download any of the hundreds of apps or online classes. This mental break will definitely help you as well as your child stay calm and relaxed. If your child finds it difficult to get into the meditation mode, he can sit down on his bed and place a weighted lap pad or even his weighted blanket to calm himself down. As mentioned above, weighted blankets help calm down the mind, so it will be easier for your child to control his random thoughts.
Teenage crisis is not easy to deal with but your unconditional support will help your teen get over his anxiety, fear, and insecurity easily. This is the time when you need more patience than your child. Thankfully, modern-day aids such as AG weighted blankets will help you and your child get proper sleep so that you don’t lose your patience soon.
References and Citations
- Children and Teens. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children.
- Gavin ML, ed. Why Exercise Is Wise (for Teens). KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/exercise-wise.html. Published January 2018.
- Sleep for Teenagers. National Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs.