Anxiety affects one of out of four teens these days, but can be difficult to detect.
Some kids keep it inside. If you pay attention, you will notice that their worries interfere with usual activities. They avoid social situations and are constantly afraid of making mistakes. Other kids will take the opposite direction. They engage in risky behaviors and hide the evidence from you. Take a hard look and you will see through their self-confident mask. Drugs are a common way to numb anxiety and parents may be none the wiser when kids use them during school or at sleepovers.
How to help
However, parents have one invaluable tool that works, no matter how tricky and complex this world has become: their gut feeling. If you sense that something is wrong, you are probably on to something.
It’s normal for teens to not want to talk to their parents but you should try voicing your concerns in a calm and loving way to your child. If you have noticed dramatic changes in their habits, attitudes, or activities, or if you fear they are in trouble, it is your right and duty as a parent to do what you can to help them.
Yes, your teen needs to separate from you to find who they are, but ironically, the one thing teens often ask for — more and more freedom — can be a great source of anxiety. As much as they will fight you on this, they need to sleep a full 8 hours, eat healthy meals, get good exercise, and have plenty of time away from screens.
Keep it positive
There is more that you can do as a parent. Teens need encouragement, just like the rest of us. Notice something positive about them every day. Help them figure out what they care about and support their effort toward finding their calling in life. Having a long-term goal or purpose to work toward will help them weather the storms of adolescence.
The teen brain is maturing. Anxiety can be managed and overcome. Teachers, therapists, doctors can be on your team, but don’t forget that your nurturing makes the difference. Do not be afraid to parent your teen. You are still needed as the captain of the ship.