Anxiety. We tend to hear this description more and more often in matters involving children and teens. Although there are some ideas as to the cause, the main issue for those of you with preteens is how to handle it during teen years – a time of tremendous change.
Although I wish I had better news for you, often those who struggle with anxiety during childhood may see it worsen during adolescence. Challenges of social life and peer acceptance, of increased difficulty and expectations of academic performance, of getting into the “right” college, of increased demands on the athletic field, cause worry and anxiety. Teens want to achieve but are afraid of failure. They need to belong but fear rejection. They want certainty about their value, their future, their place with their peers. Unfortunately, life isn’t certain, especially during a time of such extreme change. What’s even more frustrating is that, while navigating these challenges, teens are striving for independence and often resist your offers of help.
So how can you help your teen cope and survive these challenges? Emphasize to him or her that life is not meant to be and never will be perfect. Give your teen the opportunity to fail and rebound. Failures will occur, can’t be avoided and must be turned into learning moments. Teach that every inevitable setback is not a catastrophe. Even though one thing goes wrong, everything isn’t doomed to go wrong – and life still goes on. Teens must understand that there’s more than one road to success, and they must find the one that’s right for them.
Parenting is modeling. Pay attention to your own responses to stress and life’s challenges, and try to present your teen with good examples of techniques to cope. Assure your teen that he or she is supposed to be anxious, but learning to manage anxiety is necessary and possible.
To learn more or to find a doctor near you, visit mercy.net/laduenews.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.