Teens and Anxiety: Coping Tools

by Lucie Hemmen on September 27, 2014

Helping your teen transition from summer back to school.

Anxiety is MUCH more common in teenagers today and a big trigger for that anxiety is academic pressure. As your teen transitions out of summer and into the school year, let her know that you want to work with her to keep her schedule and lifestyle healthy and reasonable. Anxiety often flares before a transition (from summer to school), and when life events have built up but we haven’t had the time to reflect on how they’ve made us feel. It often hits when we have emotions moving around that we haven’t given loving attentions to: for example, feeling afraid and insecure about entering a new situation. Knowing what emotions you’re having and being able to name the emotions and acknowledge them, understand them, accept them, goes a Long Way to helping those emotions settle. Amazingly, this basic emotional intelligence is not commonly taught to kids, even though emotional intelligence is a bigger predictor of happiness than academic success! Go figure.

When we ask our teens how they’re feeling and acknowledge, accept, understand their feelings, we model emotional skills they can begin to absorb and incorporate.

Note to parents: When we get freaked out by their feelings, we model that to them so it’s important to regulate ourselves in order to be there for them.

How can we support our kids dealing with anxiety?

All emotions are Energy in the Body. Anxiety is often experienced as energy moving fast and erratically – often in the chest but also commonly affecting the tummy.

MOVING the energy takes it from being trapped and torturous to calm. There are lots of ways to move it: exercise, talking or venting to someone who loves you, writing your worries down and rating them on a scale from 1 to 5, generating ideas and solutions to address worries, journaling, coloring (bring out the crayons!), crying, breathing mindfully (6 seconds in, 8 seconds out) FOLLOWED BY… whenever possible: taking a good nap.

When teens learn ways to cope with anxiety, they gain mastery and confidence because they trust that they can work with their emotions instead of feeling ambushed by them.

We can convey to our kids that it is 100% normal to sometimes feel overwhelmingly uncomfortable emotions. Learning to respond to them in healthy, effective ways creates happiness and stability in adulthood.

Creating healthy routines.

It’s a touchy conversation to have with teens but many teens who struggle with anxiety have habits that work against them. For example, not getting enough sleep, waking up a little behind schedule the following morning, rushing, skipping breakfast, then out the door – often to the accompaniment of parental irritation, “Why don’t you plan better?!?!”

The best time to problem solve is when you’re not in the heat of the moment with your teen.

“How can I help you manage your time in the morning?” OR for older teens: “What do you think you could change in order to have a less stressful morning? How can I help?”

Small tweaks can make a big difference. You can help your teen connect the dots: “Wow, when you wake up 15 minutes earlier you seem way less stressed. Good going.”

Is your teen skipping breakfast due to morning queasiness? Lots of teen do and it’s not good for their mood, anxiety, and energy levels. Try miso soup in a thermo insulated mug or Kleen Canteen. Lots of girls are soothed by it and can tolerate sipping it for some nutrients and warmth. Stores carry it in tubs and it’s easy to make.

Reassuring your teen now will make the transition to school easier for everyone.


For more tips about helping your teen cope with anxiety, Like Lucie Ph.D. on Facebook

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