Teenage Anxiety: Listen, Validate, Teach
Like depression, teenage anxiety is a pretty common experience for adolescents. Whether it’s the jitters when it’s time to get in front of the class to present a report or the butterflies that show up when talking to someone they like, it’s a pretty universal experience. But for some teenagers, anxiety can be debilitating and actually lead to very real depression.
Anxiety is a serious issue and needs to be taken seriously. It may be normal anxiety, but if it’s not, taking the time to listen to your teen will help a great deal. In either case, you’ll need to teach them self-soothing skills.
The rule of thumb when dealing with teenagers is to avoid lecturing them. Instead, listen to them and be curious about their experiences, even if you think they are being dramatic. Reflect back to them what you are hearing them express. Let them know that it’s ok to feel nervous even if it doesn’t feel so ok (that’s the validating piece).
Here are some suggestions to offer them:
- Meditate, Breathe – Smooth, relaxed belly breathing. Inhale and let the belly fall out, inhale and pull the belly back in. This can help them calm down.
- Use aromatherapy – Smells like lavender and vanilla are well-known to facilitate relaxation. It may or may not completely alleviate the anxiety, but it will help take the edge off.
- Do something active – Engaging in physical exercise not only gets healthy chemicals flowing that can offset anxiety, but it also distracts them from the cause of the anxiety.
- Do something creative – Being creative engages other parts of the brain and helps relieve anxiety through the distraction principle. Encourage your teen to create art, music, or anything that helps them feel better.
- Journal – Writing down their thoughts can help them externalize and lessen their burden.
- Elevate legs – Lying down and elevating their legs can help them calm down by keeping the blood at the core organs.
Remember to praise your teen’s efforts to manage their anxiety, and share with them what has worked for you. Even if they roll their eyes and say, “That’ll never work for me,” that’s normal teenage obstinance; you’ve planted the seed. By listening, validating, and teaching, you can help your teen manage their anxiety and lead a healthier, happier life.
Learn more about Counseling for Anxiety in Austin.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.