Helping Your Teen With Anxiety

Human emotions are normal.  We all get anxious, depressed, happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and even manic sometimes.  What we need to learn is to manage emotions as we have them, and to acknowledge them.  So many times, in the past, we have been taught not to acknowledge emotions because it makes us look weak, or it makes us feel weak.  Emotions don’t make us weak.  They actually make us stronger when we understand them better.  Teens learn lots of things in school, from algebra to history, but very few learn how to effectively manage emotions.  As a parent, I know that on top of teaching my kids how to survive, it’s important to teach them about managing emotions.

Many emotions are easy to handle, like happiness and joy, whey you have it.  Somehow, we have come to believe that we should be happy all the time, but we can’t be happy all the time.  Interacting with others creates different emotions.  As we watch family and others growing up, we learn to manage emotions, as well as learning values.  If mothers are anxious, they can make their children anxious.  If mothers are angry, they can make their children angry, and so on.  I say mothers only because most children are raised by their mothers, but whoever a child’s role model is, they can learn behavior from that person.  They learn frustration tolerance, by being frustrated.  They learn anger management by being angry, but as a part of that, they need direction to manage that emotion in a way that helps them, not hurts them.  

After teaching anger management, I understand that if you teach people how to manage emotion, it helps they function at a higher, happier, level.  Knowing what to do when you get depressed or angry or frustrated is just as important as learning algebra or history.  It’s a skill that can make the future better.  The idea is to tolerate emotions, with the idea that they happen, won’t last forever, and can be managed in a way that makes the future easier.  In working with teens, we talk about understanding that no matter what happens you have options.  If you are bullied, you have options to tell someone and ask for help.  You can walk away, or fight.  You can understand why people bully other people and use that to understand the situation better, or you can try to avoid the situation.  If a situation makes you angry, you can look at the situation and decide if you should argue your point, walk away, or even other options.  There is no one way to handle a situation, but so many times people think there is only one response, and they forget to review the options.

Emotions are hard to understand, and when people are in the middle of an intense situation, it’s hard sometimes to stop and rethink.  For teens, is even harder because they are learning how to make independent decisions, but don’t yet have control of their lives in a way that gives them the options they need.  For instance, if a teen is having problems with homework, their resources to address the problem don’t include all the options that an adult might have.  If they have trouble managing frustration and anxiety, it gets the best of them and they could shut down.  If they are better able to manage, they can ask for help and find a way to move forward in a way that is helpful.

These days, parents tend to shield their kids from feeling emotions like frustration, sadness, or anger, in a meaningful way that can help them learn.  Parents save kids from consequences, reward bad behavior, and give too much to keep the peace to save the parent from being embarrassed.  This creates kids with an assumption that they won’t be accountable, and the parents will always take care of things.

I have said before that my kids are aware that they will have to grow up, get a job, and move out.  I would like to think that I’m also trying to help them with managing emotions.  You can help you kids from birth learn how to manage emotions.  If you, as a parent need help first, get some help.  You are the role model for your kids and the better you handle things, the better they will learn to manage things as well.  If you need help, there is information that can help, just ask the counselors at your kids school, or find support in your community.  Don’t give up.  Your kids need you to help them learn about emotions, just like they learn about English, and as they return to school they will need it even more.  It’s all a part of being happy, for life.